Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Photography?

In the 4th grade, my father brought home a used Mamiya Sekor range-finder camera, of all things, from a medical conference.  I never did ask where he picked it up, but he took time on the very day of his arrival to share his thoughts on how photos come to be.  Since then, photography has been a persistent part of my journeys, like a slow burning ember that at times will pop into a flame before returning back to a quiet glow.

But why photography, rather than some other pursuit?  Well, nothing intrigues or delights me more than a photograph’s ability to help us “older folks” notice the nuances in life.  When humans are in their early youth, they are oblivious to time’s passage.  They will spend inordinate volumes of effort to notice details.  These young kunduns will scrutinize like art critics, ponder like philosophers, and dispassionately dismantle anything from food, to insects, to toys to better understand the essence of all the wondrous things around them.  As we grow, movement and pace rise in importance, and we notice less of the interwoven fabric that surrounds us.  The future worries us, the past dismays us and the current moment is ignored too easily.

That is where still images come in.  A camera, a patient eye, a trigger finger and our intuition can arrest the inflection points of the day.  The upshot: a moment’s essence is preserved into the uncharted future.  Later, when we look at a photo from say, 5  or 25 years ago, we cannot but help feel an emotion, be it a smile, frown, or perhaps sadness, seep into our being.   We remember a moment seemingly unnoticed when it occurred.  A narrow element of the photo has served as a key and unlocked a memory deep in the sleepy or introverted corridors our minds and hearts. It may be a distinctive smile, the cut of a dress, a faddish haircut, a long forgotten hangout, or the surrounding people.  All of these remembrances lurch into “motion” and the stories come forth the way a flash flood surges across a parched plain.  In doing so, photos reaffirm the tapestry we are part of.


Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Dream Proof Zones

Being Catholic, I regularly attend the Saturday or Sunday church service.  The mass has breathtaking consistency regardless where in the world you attend it.  However, the week to week regularity means that I for one, need to vigilantly be ‘in the moment’ so that I don’t wind up thinking of some other notion, conversation, news item or worry that I have.

But at the church in Bellevue, WA where I attend now (St. Louise de Marillac) portions of the service are simply impossible to “miss”.  Here’s one of them: when the parishioners can make an offering, the children present may drop off a food item or a check / cash offering.

It is amazing what happens.

From every direction, children flood into the front.  Some walk.  Most run, jog, skip.  Some trace very clear arcs in their path, and even lean into the curve they are carving.  Some walk in with certain trepidation at first, but gain confidence and verve from their counterparts.  Older siblings literally carry younger ones up and down the shallow steps.

A regular contingent will walk up to say hi to the priest and deacon, and even give brief updates: a new haircut; boo boos on their elbows; something their sister did.  (The priests relish it too.  These are the most vibrant parishioners in their flock.)

And none “go thru the motions”.

There is a passion, an immediacy to their actions.  The volume to this energy is nearly deafening for me.  One has to smile at these kunduns showing us how to carry on.  It is humbling and inspiring at the same time.


Taking care of business...
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2009 (click for larger image)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Great Risk, Sizeable Reward

Every so often, something (potentially obvious) makes my whole constitution just leap. Here is one of those…

As context, having observed a few weddings, I find that the bone crushing number of details often will squeeze much of the joy and spontaneity out of the event for the very wedding couple and party that it is all about. Furthermore, they can become exercises in conformity. Any detail that is outside "the norm" gets scrutinized, commented, lobbied for back and forth.

(Almost as remarkable is how much of this is invisible to the average attendee. For them all too often it is just a formal function, great food, people you catch up with, and some fun in general.)

Here is a video of a couple who took a great leap outside the norm - I don't know hard or easy that was to pull off with respect to the their extended family. But given that it’s been viewed 27 million times, it has struck a chord with people, both for the rules they broke and the joy thereby created.

I smile from inside when I watch it. The message: just come out with your smiles blazing, your hearts thunderously preempting and assuaging all the hesitations in the audience, and "show, don't tell" them how happy you are.

Let the goodness of life shine thru and engulf all those in its presence.