“The camera sees what I, unconsciously, want to see, because it feels that way: a painting by Winslow Homer, a Matisse blue, a quiet, surreal mind scape where all is possible, where everything is in its proper place; a reflection of my childhood’s memory of a far- off place occupied by happy elephants and talking monkeys, a place long gone but apparently still with me.”
This paragraph is part of a piece i wrote in 2010 about a image of a boat.(http://lifeasahuman.com/2010/photography/minnesota-sunrise/). it was one my first attempts to write about both the process and results of my photography work. I changed the tense in the paragraph because it is still the case that photography for me is about the relationships of light and memory in the frozen instant of the shutter click; and the end result is still and forever what it is, more so than what was intended or found accidentally, despite the skill and technology if faithfully applied to the end product. And now that I am SEVENTY years old I am claiming a Senior Dispensation.
The photograph that follows is called “Old Man in a Hat.” I don’t see any happy elephants there or talking monkeys but I know them and they are part of how I do what it is that I do to stay engaged and productive. This is not so easy given the health challenges that are now part of who I am in the world. I am a writer, a photographer, Grandpa Michael, a recovering addict and all the rest of it. When asked how I am I generally say fine, this despite a medical file the size a Volkswagen Beetle circa 1967.
So why are there three images of boats in black and white in this piece? Mostly because I like them; they are among my favorite images, they capture my long lived sense of ghosts in the aftermath of activity – the moment when a favorite place is out of season. Where all the guests go home. When the fall chill inhabits the last breeze off the lake and the summer is over. When the chill is inside your bones and sometimes inside your heart and you shudder quickly and do not know why, and all is lost for awhile. You come to know that it is time to hunker down, draw the family close, shutter the windows, chop and stack the fire wood; time to get ready to ride out the winter winds of another trip around the Sun.
Turning seventy on Sunday last had that feeling for me. Recognizable and familiar. I wanted to embrace that world inside the poet’s phrase: “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” Hell, I will say it again just like he does: “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” Want to ain’t enough. Now is my time, older boy of summer that I am, and winter is comin’ in.
Photos by Michael Lebowitz. All rights reserved.