Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dear Mr. Barnes - A photographer's perspective

Dear Mr. Barnes,

Your recent use of cameras and death in your post A Possible Anthropological Origin of the Duckface was quite a stretch for me to read today as a person who also takes joy in photography.

Let me start with my beginnings with a camera and move forward. I caught my first shutterbug when I was 6 and my mom let me take photos during the dolphin show at the Brookfield Zoo on my first family vacation. My mom showed me how to hold the little point and click 35mm film camera and aim it at my unsuspecting swimming mammalian targets. Some how I knew the patience of waiting for the right moment to try to capture the moment of the dolphins flying in mid air, because that’s what subjectively we see.

Moving forward into high school I was the lead photographer and “Senior Editor” of our small school yearbook. I would capture candids of my peers, the thrill of games and the action behind the scenes. I learned what photoshop was, how to manipulate, cut and frame. Photos became more than a snapshot of time but a story unto themselves.

Fast forward to today. I take photos to capture the dichotomy between light and dark, the contrast of colors, joy in my day, and memories I am proud of and choose to share. I never ask my subjects to pose or be different of who they are, generally I’m happy if I can catch them still enough to snap a quick one before running away. I play with sliders to balance and shade. To match the lens of the artificial to my eye and memory. Just with any story passed down from relative to relative, there may be an occasional embellishment but the essence is the same.

A photo is nothing more than a reflection of the captured and the intent that a person chooses to see. I capture photos because there is a stirring in my heart or something I deem to be precious. Sure, their worth is not necessarily known to those that I share my photos with. To share my photos, regardless of the content, is an objective act of myself showing my subjective feelings towards myself and those people and places I’ve encountered

Certainly we have all posed for cameras in our lives. It may be that we want to have more of our subjectivity shown to others or that we are making a choice for our behavior. Anyone who is the subject of a photo should remember that they will be viewed objectively by another person and be reacted to by their subjectivity.

Not posing, finally standing still :)

The duckface is not only an action or pose by the person doing it, but reaction created by the person viewing it. The old adage of “A photo is worth a thousand words” is not the words of the subject but those of the viewer. Even in the most basic of stories, a picture or illustration proves to guide our hearts and minds toward the author’s intent.

Lastly for the topic of death. We as Catholics still treat a person’s corpse with every respect that we should have treated them in life. The reason that the Church still prefers the body present during the funeral rites is that it recalls our loved one’s life and death. If a body is so easily discarded and has no worth after we have died, the Catholic Church would not teach so strongly on the Resurrection of the body and soul.

It is hard to react to death because our selfish tendency wants those we hold closest to never permanently leave us. Our repulsion to corpses is that we have so many human memories wrapped up in the objectivity that this person had. We long for the goodness that was brought into our lives by their objective presence and miss that it will no longer be a constant presence in our lives.

I have watched as my loved ones have planned funerals and find myself in that same boat now. As I am taking care of loved ones and learning their final wishes, I am blessed to have the opportunities to know how lives will be celebrated.

For those who I love who are terminally ill, there is a very thin line between objectivity and subjectivity because we can visibly see the struggle they have in communicating and that struggle shows me more of their spirit and who they are.

When their time has come and I know that they have seen God for who He truly is; back here there will be tears and pictures. These pictures will show us glimpses of who they were and keep their memories alive in our hearts.

Thank you for your perspective and I hope you appreciate mine.

Amanda Castro