The Art of Self
“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is thereby a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”
- Ansel Adams
I have always loved the water. My college selection was, at least in part, based on its proximity to the ocean. During grad school, I discovered Woodmont - a delightful Connecticut borough that, according to the US Census bureau, has a total area of one square mile - of which 0.3 square miles is land and 0.7 miles is water. Perfect. Jim - my way better half - is a water soul, too ... and in our lives together, we have never lived more than a quarter of a mile from it. (Though, in the spirit of full disclosure, "it" here can also refer to lakes … which is what happens when one lives in Minnesota. And no, the melting April snow doesn't count.) There is something about the water … being in it, near it … its fluidity, the smell, the sound, the community that gravitates towards it ... It, for lack of a better word, grounds me.
People say a lot of things when they look at art (they say even more when they don't realize that the artist is standing less than three feet away). Art is, after all, exceedingly subjective - on the part of the artist, and of the observer. The words I hear most often:
I always smile - these are also water people - what they feel is what I feel. I'm not necessarily a zen person - my brain is noisy and it craves quiet space. The water gives me that. Creating the image of that space, that feeling, that mood … that is the art. Not pushing the button, not the settings in the camera, not the motion of it, or the editing. It is the attempt to re-create that quiet fluidity. There is an emerging science called "Blue Mind" that explores the effect that water has on the brain. Started by Wallace J. Nichols, it integrates evolutionary biology, neuroscience, psychology, art … attracting professionals from all walks - all intent on unlocking the secrets of our relationship with the wet stuff. According to J. (as he is known), blue mind "pertains to the mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment"
Meditative. Calm. Peacefulness. Unity.
Satisfaction with life in the moment.
Ansel Adams is one of my favorite photographers - he was a landscape photographer … wide, vast, open spaces that stunningly convey the sheer majesty of our world. Black and white, on film, and self-developed - there is a tactile quality to his images that honor both the subject and the art form. The colorlessness of the images stimulates the imagination and the senses - a recreation of feeling and space. If, as he said, the photograph is a true expression of what he felt about life in its entirety, he must have found enough of it to be completely awe-some. I'd like to think, though, that even for him there was a tension - between what he sometimes felt and what he wanted to feel, and that that desire in and of itself contributes to my own awe when I see his work.