Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Snapshots of a Former Life
I am a woman given to words. I like them, but I know enough not to rely solely upon them. Words are strange. We all learn when we are little to think before we speak, because some things cannot be taken back. Words seem like forever, but I am finding a new freedom in images lately. When writing poetry, I have always been given over to the image. And images often exist in my head as words-- like how I think of luxury or longing (both images from England).
The last few weeks, I have become obsessed with my camera. I bring it with me everywhere and annoy people constantly by taking photos and telling them to keep doing what they were doing. I scour the neighborhood looking at things, details and abstracts. I was thinking as I walked the other night about the difference between a photograph, a picture, and a snapshot. Photographs are old-world-y, or professional. We don't take photos anymore; we don't even use film. We take pictures-- a snippet of a moment, a small slice of something we want to remember. For me, though, the funny thing is, I usually don't remember the moment of the photos, but I remember everything before and after with amazing clarity. Some faiths believe that photos take their soul; I wonder sometimes if it doesn't take our memory rather that restore or subsidize it.
And then there's snapshots-- the least professional of the bunch. Snapshots get a bad rap. They're quick, irreverant, and far too often posed. But there is something about the quickness for me, something about grabbing onto a piece of the everyday. Snapshots never seem representative; we always explain how "that's not a good picture, but..." Snapshots lead us to words; they work as illustrations for what we could not say otherwise.
Lately though-- and I prefer the word "pictures"-- I have been thinking about how a picture gives me a story. It makes me think about everything that is going on around what I see. Photographs question, or perhaps direct my thinking. A snapshot often leaves me without much room to think. But a picture... it just exists quietly, allowing us to put whatever meaning onto it we want.
I've taken some random pictures lately, but they have me thinking. Perhaps, despite my dependence on words, an image gives me more freedom, or at least adds to the sense that everything isn't always set in stone. Pictures show us, over and over again, that nothing lasts forever.