I don’t know anything about photography but I like to take pictures, mostly because I like to walk around and look at the beauty of the world. I started to take an Ipad with me because it was a way to put a frame around things I looked at. Putting a frame around them made me see them in a new way. I took some pictures, and then I put a few on Facebook and Instagram because I like social media, even though I recognize its crazy side. It keeps me in touch with friends and relatives and brings me lots of information.
So I was a little puzzled as to how to respond when people started telling me they liked my photographs. Of course, I was pleased. I just wasn’t sure what they were complimenting, me or the scenery. The problem is, I live on a big lake, with a beach, a lot of mountains across the water, plus a white dog and a white cat that accompany my walks. On a sunny day, or with the light playing tricks with the clouds, it’s pretty hard to take a bad picture of any of this.
So can I really take credit for any of this? I tried modestly shucking and jiving and saying, no, no, I’m not a photographer, when people said nice things. But people said, you have a good eye, or, I like the way you see things.
Now, I’m a writer. I know quite a lot about language, and how it works. I know how to show other people some tricks with language, like how to make your verbs active, how to put valuable information at the end of a sentence, how to make sure your pronouns have correct references. Not exciting but necessary. Grammar nerd stuff.
I know quite a lot about books, writing them, editing them, and why people do or don’t like them. But photography is a mystery to me because, while I like looking at things, I am still puzzled at what makes a photograph work or not.
I could take some courses or do some reading but I’d rather not. I spent a long time figuring out writing, I’m still figuring it out and I figure that is enough for now. There are a lot of things I am not going to master in this life: learning French, understanding music, becoming a good dressage rider, making pasta. I started late and I just don’t have enough time left. Plus there are still so many books to read. Even though I read fast, I still can’t seem to ever get through the pile of books sitting beside my bed. And just when I do, my wonderful friend Joe, at Kingfisher Books, finds me some more.
And besides, for me, taking pictures is a side effect of walking. I have been walking around this world, marveling at its beauty, since I was very small. In my poverty-ruled farm family, beauty didn’t have a value. You couldn’t eat it or sell it. But I knew it was there. I have been puzzling about the meaning of beauty ever since I first looked out over the jade green grass of the pasture at sunset, when I was five and was struck, as if by lightning, by amazement.
So I will keep walking and putting a frame around things that catch my eye and make me look twice or three times. I will share what I see and be glad for whatever meaning or beauty people take from it. It is such a great pleasure, to be able to share what I see. Walking and looking is a joy and a privilege that I never take for granted and one that I am very aware also has a limited time span left in my life.