Artists are like go-betweens. On one side of them is life, humming along with a myriad of moments. On the other side is an audience. The artist’s job is to grab one of those fleeting experiences -- one that, hopefully, captures a bit of the beauty or the mystery or the truth of life, and hold it up for the audience to see.
Or, to think of it another way, it’s like reaching into a somewhat mundane film and pulling out a single frame to say, “Hey, everyone --this one is interesting!”
I think of this as I sit on this week’s bench. It is alongside a paved path in Caledonia State Park in southern PA, a path that crosses a nearby bridge and ends at a public pool. The park is surprisingly busy on a Wednesday afternoon. But, after all, it is summer.
And the light is gorgeous, flickering off of the mountain stream and silhouetting people against a bejeweled background.
As I watch, camera in hand, I’m conscious of being outside the flow of life. I am the Observer. I catch snippets of conversation as people stroll by. I take a shot of a young mother with a son on the bridge.
Followed by a sweet vignette of a man pointing out aquatic life to his grandchild.
Frankly, it’s a bit disconcerting to be on the outside, looking in. And a bit sad. Better to be living life than simply recording it.
But that’s when my son shows up. And for the next day, as planned, we camp together, cook together, hike together. It’s still a bit strange to be taking photos along the way. Each time I do, I feel like I’ve stepped outside the camaraderie and become the Observer again. But Todd is an amateur photographer too (his specialty: gorgeous shots of food), so he understands.
Sweeter still is when we both stop along the trail during our hike and concentrate on freezing the motion of a bee searching for pollen.
Or stopping a ebony jewelwing on a leaf.
This is why I gravitate toward creating community in the process of creating images: it blurs the line between artist and audience. Ultimately, it’s the individual artist’s eye and skill that imbues a captured scene with significance. But as we work together to find those scenes worth capturing, there can be more than one hand holding them up for us all to enjoy.