Dec. 26, 2016
Last night I wrote a FB post that garnered some loving attention from dear friends. I was touched. I had spent Christmas Eve and Day alone, albeit perfectly content and creatively productive. Next year will be different because I will have gained friendships here and I will be free to travel. In my post I mentioned that I’d spent the day reading and writing in bed. I was inspired by Truman Capote who enjoyed writing while laying down and by two friends who recently confessed to staying in bed until the afternoon. I tried it out for myself and although it was a failed experiment—my bed is a torture rack—I managed to enjoy reading a great book and doing a lot of writing and studying Spanish.
The book I’m reading, This I Know by Susannah Conway, is about the depths of her grief after the sudden death of her partner and how, in the ensuing years she found her way back to herself. Weekly counseling, writing, photography and travel not only helped her cope, it served to transform her. I swoon over her writing. They are much like her polaroids: soft, intimate, with a lot of inviting space (negative space).
She helps me think about my own journey from grief and despair after my father’s death. It’s strange how we can carry grief for years, decades even, just under the skin. I cried again, reading her words but not from sorrow. They were cleansing tears, tears over the joy of her deep sharing, knowing that she wrote her book not only as a catharsis but also that it should be received directly into the hearts of her readers. That’s intimate. I felt the arrow of her sharing and it burst open my heart. Profound loss and grief tends to leave an imprint—or rather, it reshapes you. In her case, it may have helped to shape her work—the large empty spaces of what’s not there helping to define life and what is there.
My grief certainly fueled my work as a videographer/photographer. For years my lingering melancholy could be seen in the tonality of my work. I have been taking photographs since I was a teenager when I used a Kodak box camera. My father shot a lot of photographs and super 8 film which had inspired me. Now, both my youngest brother, Michael, and I are avid photographers. Just before I left NYC for Guatemala, he gave me a beautiful camera with a close-up lens.
I began snapping away like a crazy person the minute I got on the plane. I continued all through pre-service training and it’s only now, after over a thousand shots that I noticed that while some of my photographs were inspired by what I saw, others were shot out of habit. I enjoy it more when I use the camera as a way to practice mindfulness; slowly and waiting for the image to capture me rather than for me to capture the image. The end result is a photograph that I can enjoy looking at for a long, long time.