Photography and Poetry

I grew up in a household of art. My father has an absolutely unerring eye. By watching him, and by constant exposure to great art, I have a pretty decent eye myself. An eye for light, for focus, for composition. A love of the 6 1/2  minutes before the Purkinje effect, when the light is more gold and the world is rich with hues and overtones. And an ability to see beauty in unlikely and overlooked places.

The grand vista and the sweeping horizon are lovely, but capturing that…everyone sees that. It inspires awe, but it doesn’t reveal anything new. Nothing wrong with it, of course. Inspiring awe is one of the great and noble purposes of artists. I don’t intend to demean vistas or horizons. I love me the sunset and the mountains. I can’t get enough of distant islands seen from a ship.

However, the revelation of things overlooked and things of daily use as things of beauty is a noble purpose of art. I have seen this, most notably, in the art of photography. These are the photographs that really stand out in my memory. A door, a bouy, the corner of a house, the eye of a zebra. These close up views make me pause, scrutinize, realize. There is beauty in the light on a sloppily tiled roof? Yes, there is. There is beauty in a dandelion? Get the weedkiller, but yes, yes there is.

I was sitting in the balcony of a church last week, waiting patiently for the pastor to quit sermonizing so I could play my violin for the offeratory. I had already heard the sermon once, and round two wasn’t holding my mind, so I gazed around. That was when I noted the beauty of morning light on the corner of a roof. It was a tiny square of light, and saggy section of roof. I don’t know why it held me so enchanted. But there was beauty there, and I didn’t have a camera.

But there are many ways to capture the loveliness of light, and my medium isn’t really photography. My father takes pictures and paints in watercolor. My brother loves to daub in oil, and does a fine job of it. But I am not that kind of artist. When I want to capture a concrete beauty, I reach for a pen and start to scribble. In rhyme, in meter, and in English.

But my job is the same job. I must show you, make you see, point out and illuminate (all of that), something that you ordinarily would overlook. I am nowhere near the kind of artist that I’d like to be, but I hope that through practice and the constant pursuit, I may one day be able to use words to reach hearts the same way I am reached by excellent  photography through my eyes.

Meanwhile, I will enjoy the art of my fellow artists when it inspires awe or shows me something beautiful and new.

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