Secret World

Seeing things that were not there
On a wing, on a prayer

Rediscovered Peter Gabriel’s Us recording. Beautiful, powerful. Especially the last song, quoted above. It reminded me of this (unretouched) photograph I took in Austria, at the Vienna State Opera House, in September, 2005:
When I took this photo, I was seeing things that were not there. I cringe every time I look at this picture. I cringe because although I took 1,200 photos over three weeks in Europe, this is the only one in this location from this perspective. And don’t you wish there were just slightly more at the top edge, so you could see the full circle of the architecture? And at the bottom – wasted pixels, with those lights. If I had tilted the camera up just a bit, this photo would be perfect. But I didn’t. It kills me.
I thought this photo was perfect when I took it. I thought I saw, in the instant before I opened the shutter, that it was composed well, that I had paid attention to the four edges of the frame, and the middle, and the thirds, and that I had a good shot. In this situation, with so much symmetry and filigree, the difference between a perfect shot and a wasted shot is binary. You either pulled it off or you didn’t.
Yes, of course, I could crop it so the viewer doesn’t know there was an architectural detail at the top. And I can clean up or trim the bottom. But I don’t want to, because I will always know that if I had been more present in the exact moment I was capturing this photo it would far better reflect the essence of the place. But I wasn’t and it doesn’t.
And because of that, I have no interest in working with this photo. None at all. Zero. Zed-ed-red-oprah. Binary – I don’t want to touch it. I am content to leave it there in my photo library, annoying me each time as I scroll by, on my way to find some other photo where I was present, where I was fully attentive yet grounded in the flow of the place.
It’s worth reflecting on the point that this seems like a bad attitude. There could, maybe possibly, be some gray area there in between. Somewhere. (Possibly, I think.) Or even, heaven forfend, the opposite could be true.
In this house of make believe
Divided in two, like Adam and Eve

Maybe it’s easier to work on a photo like this one (unretouched), taken two minutes and 59 seconds later:
You’d think in the three minutes between these photos I could have taken a few at various focal lengths, or bracketed the exposure, or verified the composition, or tried some off-center angles. But apparently not.
Perhaps I was in the moment, enjoying the ephemeral experience more than capturing it in a two-dimentional color-quantized pixelated bitstream. Perhaps that first photo captures the fact that I was present in the experience at the moment of capture. Maybe it reflects the essence of my experience of the experience. That would be, good, I think.
Anyway, here is a photo I can work with. Symmetry is strong, and the person appearing in the left foreground provides an asymmetrical break. There is large-scale repetition in the architecture, and small-scale detail to discover. From this we can get a nice print.
But maybe it’s a cop out to start with the well-composed photo, and simply see how far it can be optimized. That idea puts all of the creation, all of the making, at the moment of capture, and reduces or removes any re-creation during processing. Certainly there is creativity in color-balancing, cropping, and sharpening a photo. But that’s optimization, a lower form of creativity than creating.
Using a photo with flaws as a starting point invites creativity to re-create the scene, or create a new perspective of the scene which was not in attention at the moment of making. It’s a second opportunity to make the picture. Or a first opportunity to make a different picture. Once you get in there and start pixel farming, you never know what you might make.
Okay, well, fine. But this is a hobby, not another full-time job. So maybe right now I don’t want to spend any time (effort) re-making (fixing) this photograph (crappy snapshot). Maybe instead I just want to change (play with) the color balance (feeling-tone) and set the white point (brightness). Boys just wanna have fun.
I stood in this unsheltered place
‘Til I could see the face behind the face

I came across this personal mission statement earlier today. (Most of the thread is worth reading.) I have not nearly integrated my values and ambition to the degree Tim has. As you can see, I can’t even take a decent snapshot during a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
But for starters, I’m aspiring to live in the moment, expanding my experience of the length of each moment, entraining with nature, feeling my body, feeling my being, without regard for clocked time. That is a secret world that collides with capitalism, and privileges the moment of experience over the moment of capture – and over the moments of creation, to the detriment of deadlines.