Yep, I got some free time today, so more words. I may even have a third long post today, because if I’ve got free time, it’s only logical that you do also. (The images will have some caption info at the end for contextual purposes.)
So I’ve had this discussion in various forms over the last few weeks and months, and I’m sure I will continue to. My thoughts are not fully formed on this subject, so it’s a work in progress. If you’ve got some insight, great, please share.
I’m developing a greater problem with words as an expressive medium. This is somewhat humorous as this blog was originally created to help me develop a better written style, one with more of a voice, more of my voice. And I feel it’s doing that quite well thank you very much.
But I still don’t trust words.
Originally it was because words are too easy to lie with. You want to spread falsehoods, you just state them. But I don’t think that’s entirely it. I think it may that words are just inherently inaccurate, and of all the bs statements, inaccurate in their specificity.
Sure words are accurate for creating bridges, killing elephants, and pointing out how it’s your partner’s turn to do the dishes, though throwing a dish at them is a more fun second option. (FYI – I’m not the thrower, I’m the target. I dodge well, better than you’d think.)
I have an internal dialog, I suspect most of us do. My mind is in continuous conversation with me. Hmmm…how did I react to that? Why did I say that? Hold on, she did this, and this, and this, shit, she was flirting with me, why didn’t I notice, again? This is what happens when you spend large quantities of time in the car, or that’s what I’m going to tell myself.
But if I say, this person is my friend, I’m feeling happy, I want dinner, none of these statements get across the real feeling. This person may be my friend, yes, but I also admire them this much, respect them in this way this much, want to emulate them in this way, want to help them in this way, laugh with them and at them like this. The statement , “this is my friend” is so empty of context, of depth of the richness of my feelings.
Sometimes, just sometimes, someone will put into words a feeling, something you can touch, hold and know in your heart. Usually it’s in poetry or song, and in song there are so many additional layers I don’t know if it’s fair to call it the words, but I’ll use that example right now because I recently heard a lyric on one of my favorite songs that really gets to the point of a feeling.
Jeff Buckley (What? You don’t own any Jeff Buckley? What’s your problem Willis? Get Grace), from the song Lover, You Should Have Come Over, “my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder”. It’s one line amongst many beautiful lines in the song, and gets across that feeling of yearning, that soft simple act of love, so well. I have no doubt it works so well because Buckley’s voice is perfect for the feeling also. Some words are perfect, like Buckley’s in how I feel them, most are okay, many are total failures. C’est la vie.
By not using the words specifically though, by describing the act, the moment, the feeling is created better than by stating the feeling directly. Words provide too clear a road, too clean a road. The roads of emotions are unclean, cluttered, messy, wrought with the detritus of our histories. By stating what is meant, the statement is stale of life, by stating something else, it becomes alive.
I didn’t intend to argue that words had any emotive value, so I’m a bit confused at this point. Did I mention, “not a fully formed idea” yet?
The beauty of many of the arts, and this includes that line, is that well it reaches to us, the listener, the viewer, the consumer of the art, we have to reach to it also. We have to bring our life experiences to the art work. By bringing our own understanding, we make sure the “love” is not love, it’s love, it’s lust, it’s yearning, it’s pain, it’s loneliness, it’s the messiness that we are, that our lives are. The word itself, on it’s own, is sterile, our lives are anything but.
In the world of photography I send unclear messages all day. Their is no written, clearly defined lexicon of meanings. Sure, certain views imply certain things, there is actually a quite humorous, for me, and quite accurate analysis of sports jubilation and dejection photos which classifies almost all those images into about 4 or 5 categories. The runner with his arms stretched high, what does that mean? Besides boring, of course.
So yeah, there are some common tools, but not like in words, not an attempt to mean one thing for everybody. And it’s that ability to not mean one thing that the emotive impact is born from. I may take a photo that says attraction, but it may also have all those other little bits, lust and admiration, curiosity and desire, fear and loneliness, that make the attraction so much more nuanced and powerful than attraction.
Also the image comes without the loaded gun effect that words have. A word like attraction imposes a certain pressure on many parties. Yet feeling that feeling, doesn’t mean that pressure need exist, but the statement of it’s existence forces certain responses, responsibilities, on people.
I know for me the removal of that loaded gun allows greater freedom of expression. I can sit around all day and think about what I feel, welcome to what you do in the woods by yourself for 4 days, but the words I think in are never as clear and revealing as the image is. If I want to know how I feel, I think about it, but I also look for it. Before how I feel is clear in my head, it is clear in my images. My images are able to say what I am as of yet unwilling to say, unable to say, or too unaware to say. And when the statements are in that form, I’m comfortable with them, at peace, un-rushed, unhindered by their existence.
Reading the image is not that clean road map that the word is though. It takes some experience reading that road, hell, even looking for that road to be able to spot it, it’s not well marked, but it is there. It also takes confidence to look at the image, here the back of your head say, this feels like excitement, this feels sadness, this feels whatever, and then trust that feeling, that intuition. Trust that the feeling has a place, a reason for being, and a willingness to step out on the limb, take the shot as to the meaning, and maybe be wrong.
Reading art, whatever art form, takes effort. Just as it takes effort to create the work, it takes effort to read the feeling in the work.
More lyrics to finish up, same song, though really, you should just listen to it.
Sometimes a man gets carried away, when he feels like he should be having his fun And much too blind to see the damage he’s done Sometimes a man must awake to find that really, he has no-one So I’ll wait for you… and I’ll burn Will I ever see your sweet return Oh will I ever learn Oh lover, you should’ve come over cause it’s not too late
1st image – from July of 2002, the week I landed my job as a photojournalist. I was a little excited by life at that point.
2nd image – I needed to show the height, I hate heights, with a passion.
3rd image – from this summer, when I felt (and still do) happier, more alive, more free, more satisfied, more heavenly than I’ve felt in lot of years.
4th image – gets the idea across sure, well done for what it is, but the typical elements.
5th image – from the start of relationship, during that stage when it feels good, the other person is nothing short of incredible, and my heart just went pitter-patter. For more explanation see image 3.