The Visual Life
Today has been lazy, with the rain and the cold wind. I decided to get out of the house and go to the library, where I wouldn't have to spend money. And because I wanted to do a little bit of research on fashion photography. Since it was about 12:30 pm when I rolled into the parking lot, hardly anyone was there. Which is good because when there's a lot of people at the Library, it kinda stresses me out. When I got out of the car, it was really windy, and bitter. I have missed the rain and cloudy skies so much, but I definitely haven't missed the cold wind.
Once I got my books picked out that I wanted to look at, I found a comfortable chair and put my earbuds in, ready to block out the world while I immerse myself in the pictures of the books. I read some of what was written, but I mainly looked at the pictures, as if I was looking through a picture-book for kids, but I was so drawn to the pictures.
The books I grabbed were:
- Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
- The History Of Fashion by Didier Grumbach
- Dorothea Lange, Her Lifetime In Photography by Elizabeth Partridge
- It's What I Do by Lynsey Addario
I started with The History Of Fashion, because that was the main reason why I went. Some of the images took my breath away, and it was hard to look away. Fashion photography is an avenue I have lingered around, but never actually walked through all the way. I've never done a photoshoot specifically for fashion, and I've definitely never been anywhere near anything like a high fashion photoshoot. But I have taken portraits of my teenage friends and family, while wearing nice cloths, and making "serious" facial expressions. That has to be somewhat close, right? However close it is, I realize that what's in my portfolio gears toward fashion photography/senior portraits. And I also realize that I love the one-on-one photoshoots a little more than family and wedding shoots. Which is really interesting because, in social situations, when I don't have my camera, one-on-one's tend to scare me a little bit.
After about 20 minutes of sitting in the chair and looking through the book, a man with a laptop bag and a piece of important paper sat in the chair across from me. We gave each other small smiles and went about our business. Every once in a while I glanced up at him, to see he was just as concentrated on his work as I was on mine. My fingers started to feel like I had been turning dusty pages, which was probably the case.
Then I got to the book about Dorothea Lange.
Quite a few years ago, I participated in a contest that involved dressing up as a famous historical character, and giving a small description of the character's life in the first-person to a small panel of judges, without giving away the name of the character I was portraying. When I look back at it now, it's actually a really good idea for a contest. But at the time, I wasn't to fond of it because I hated being up on stage. Anyway, the character I portrayed was Dorothea Lange. I was very interested in photography then, and the idea of portraying a brave woman who documented the dust bowl with stunning pictures that play a very important part in history, was very appealing to me. I studied her life story, looked through her images, and put together a costume and a make-shift camera to bring with me on stage.
But I had never read any of the important things she said. This book that I had picked out had pictures I had already seen, but also quotes of things Dorothea said that I hadn't seen before, like this one:
"One should really use a camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it."
That really struck a chord in me, and I feel like I can't fully explain why. And then I saw this quote:
"I believe in living with the camera, and not using the camera. Suddenly, if you are working a lot, it takes over and then you see meaning in everything. You don't have to push for it. That's what I mean by the visual life. Very rare."
I can only hope that maybe someday, I will be as inspirational as her. And I can only dream that one day I will inspire young photographers to create artwork that matters to them. Just like Adam Elmakias, Ashley Osborn, Jared Polin, and a handful more who have inspired me with their dedication to their work.