John and I both love to take pictures and are perfectly happy roaming the streets for hours and hours on end, just looking at things and trying our best to preserve them. I once heard somebody say something like “those with the most experiences win”, and I think we try to keep a running tally of our score by our pictures. Being patient, still, and a generally effective human, John is definitely a better photographer than I am in practice. He is perfectly capable of sitting in one position for 10 WHOLE MINUTES waiting for people to get out of his shot, or a pond to stop rippling, or to try try again when things are a little blurry. This is all good and well, but I like to think that I, with my shaky hands and ineffective . . . just about everything, have a slightly more artistic eye. Whether I actually get my “vision” to come across or not is pretty much a toss up, but I have to try to pretend I’m good at SOMETHING. It’s pretty much how our relationship works: I have “ideas” and John actually does stuff. While that may sound unfair to John for having to do all the work, I should mention that I look really, really pretty while having said ideas, so in the end John wins out.
Anyway, I love looking at the pictures we take and find myself scrolling through them all the time. Even still, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture that I feel adequately expresses any experience I’ve had. You can look at a picture and dream about those surreal blue-green, glassy Caribbean waters, palm leaves rustling in the warm breeze, the sound of the sea rhythmically lulling you to sleep on the soft sand . . . but if you’ve never done it, you’ll never truly understand just how peaceful that scene actually is. And if you have been there, you’ll know this fact and it will just make you itch to relive it BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.
In hindsight I think sometimes I’m trying too hard to find something that will make a great photograph or “memory” when I really should just be taking it all in. I definitely make a point to do that when I’m traveling, but it can be a difficult balance. You want the shot, you want the point for that running tally, but you know it’s never going to make you feel EXACTLY they way you did when you were there.
My favorite photograph is called “American Girl in Italy” by Ruth Orkin. Though I’m providing that link, I never, ever want to read any kind of explanation of this picture because I feel like the emotion it expresses to me is so meaningful. I understand it so well and I don’t want anyone to throw any of their ideas (or realities) into the mix!
I love everything about it – her face, the man harassing her, the guy on the Vespa, the old man with the jacket over his shoulders, EVERYTHING they’re wearing. I know exactly how lost and flustered she is. Maybe she was even feeling good about herself just moments before, but somehow these men were able to turn everything upside down, like they seem to be able to do with girls who are pretty enough to be given attention for their looks . . . but not gorgeous enough to know what do with them. I love it so much. 1950s Italy – does a place and a time get any better?
Clearly I am nowhere near as talented as Ruth Orkin, nor am I a true photographer seeking to document human emotion, but in any event, I thought each week I’d pick a picture from one of my trips and write about it. That way I get to relive my trips since I’m not going on any, and you get to have all your burning questions answered. You know, questions like, “gee! That wall sure does look great! I wonder if it’s in China?” and “Oh, Tibet. Yes, I’ve heard of it – do you think it should be free, really?”
I’ll do my first one next Thursday. You’re welcome!