It’s a vision which does not often include people, unless they are a feature of the landscape. My photographs may be intimate captures of nature, of the works of people, with elements of design, but with people, the glass third-eye I carry feels like an invasion when in close proximity to a human subject.
It’s only as I write this that I come to understand: it is not so much the invasion which unsettles me, but the intimacy. It is not so much that I am asking the subject to reveal themselves to me, but that I must open myself up to them. The glass between their eyes and mine is a lens which works both ways. The most beguiling intimacy a camera ever uncovers is the relationship between the subject and the photographer, looking eye-to-eye.
Most of these photographs from my month in India don’t attain this level of intimacy. Most people weren’t even aware of the camera. But I’m stretching, reaching out, getting more comfortable with exploring people as a subject.
It’s easier for me in countries like China and India, with human beings so abundant everywhere they become the landscape. The implied intimacy of proximity often overwhelms Westerners, feeling their personal space to be constantly under duress. In such a tumult of humanity, it’s easy enough to set up in the maelstrom and fire off frames with telephoto or even a normal lens; implied intimacy rendered in pixels.
But that eye-to-eye through-the-lens, that’s a level of intimacy I still struggle with, I’m still developing in a growing appreciation for the intimacy this growth fosters. Easiest, of course, with people I’ve already developed a relationship with, shared experiences with. Introduction by camera? That’s much more difficult.
Sometimes, while framing a landscape or empty alleyway, someone enters and a moment of connection is captured, a moment which startles me with its intimacy. So startling, I’m compelled to set the lens aside after the shutter release, and offer an apologetic nod: so sorry to invade your space.
And then there’s this moment. A fleeting one. Literally, two ships passing in the night. Camera, with the right lens, already in hand. One brief opportunity for just a few frames. One of these frames renders perhaps the most perfect moment I’ve ever captured.
As the ships pass, and the photographic moment passes, I lower the camera. Only then does she look at me. The eye-to-eye has the emotional impact of a soul-to-soul. I feel touched by something divine.
Would that have been a better photograph than the one I have here? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Certainly, something of that very intimate connection would have been lost, both in the photographic sense and the personal connection. The lens would have been a filter between us.
I’m not sure I’d be willing to trade even that briefest moment of personal intimacy for a better photographic one. In this moment, I’m thinking not.
Uttar Pradesh, India
Taken during travels, 2017
Even as I began reading the challenge particulars, I had several images in mind. As I read, however, the editors at WordPress added a second parameter: meaning. “Instead of a specific theme or topic, we invite you to share your most meaningful photo from 2017.” Well, that upped the stakes.
As I reconsidered my photographic options, I realized the best photograph I’ve shot this year is, in a few respects, also the most meaningful. The meaning I’ve chosen to write about here is a personal one.
And there’s a metaphorical level of meaning below the one I write explicitly about. It’s a personal journey as well as photographic.
Last week we found ourselves getting small, with Diminutive. This week, let’s take a closer look at People. Or find something else to inspire your creativity in this photograph of an Angel on the Ganga, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.
The Pic and a Word Challenge is a weekly creativity prompt offered Sundays.
Each week I provide a photograph of mine along with a single word. The challenge? Use the pic and/or word as points of inspiration to create something — a photograph, a painting, prose, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, longread or just a few words. You are welcome to use these two elements (photograph and word) literally, thematically or metaphorically. If you create both images and words, all the better.
- Use any title you like
- Your response can be words and/or an image
- You may use my image in your post, or any image you have created
- Place the challenge’s Pic (if you use it for inspiration) and Word prominently in your post
- Mention that you are responding to the Pic and a Word Challenge
- Add a link to this post in your response
To help us find your response — whether on WordPress, Instagram, Flicker, Tumblr, etc. — you can also:
- Add a comment on this post to announce your response
- Apply the tag/hashtag “Pic and a Word Challenge” or “#picandawordchallenge” to your post
Four bloggers got small this week for Diminutive. 😉 Thanks everyone! =)
- Forest Memories, by Dancing Echoes
- Diminutive, by WoollyMuses
- Diminutive, by Stuff and what if…
- Diminutive, by Temperature’s Rising
View all the Pic and a Word Challenges, including the current challenge, on the Pic and a Word Challenge tag page.