Early on as a photographer I struggled with which editing tools to use. As a newbie I thought I had to use something big and important, like Photoshop, or one of those other Adobe things. I took workshops and tried to wrap my head around all the tools and possibilities. In the end it wasn’t so much because I’m not hugely tech-savvy that I ended my relationship with those kinds of editing options, but my nagging sense that life is … messy, blurry, confusing and so photography should be, too.
I remember once encountering a team of photographers who worked for a man who sold his photos in places like Aspen and Miami. He (or, apparently, his troupe) took pictures of the natural world then hyper-saturated them with color, blew them up to sofa size and sold them for a boatload of cash. People seemed to love what he did. I remember these fancy-dressed people in a small bar in a small town in Alaska asking me where to find the best shot of the Norther Lights. I remember thinking … God almightly, you’re in Alaska, for christsakes, take a look around.
That must have been the early seeds of my church ministry—notice all the religious invocations there.
I’ve probably been taking pictures for about twenty years now, in a kind of organized, quasi-professional way. In other words, sometimes people pay me to take their picture. I have occasionally sold framed photos I’ve taken, but a moment of great delight for me came recently when I was giving a bunch of my stuff away and a woman came to church for the food shelf day and saw the pile of my pictures there against the wall and took all of them. I wasn’t there but I heard that what she said was “I have never had anything to hang on my walls …”
It brings me absolute, infinite glee to imagine her taking all of my stuff home and hanging it in her living space.
One time a business in Burlington hired me to fill the walls in their fresh new office space with my photos. It was a funny thing, imagining people in their cubicles looking at my photos all day every day. They must be good and sick of them by now.
We have become people who craft personas, curate our living spaces and present to the world a glossed-over version of ourselves. No wonder our kids are afraid to make a mistake. We have all forgotten about the great teacher called Failure, the beautiful muse named Humility, the deep river of Possibility that runs through all of our beautiful imperfections.
Not to mention it’s often really funny—the mundane minutiae of our lives.
In a world filled with boob jobs and Instagram-filtered sunsets, where everyone appears to be on the Most Perfect Vacation Ever and life is one incredible hand-crafted cocktail after another, I’ll take the blurred image of the baby being nuzzled any day, the cropped forehead, the teenager on the verge of a meltdown because Mom needs another shot. When I am doing a photo shoot it’s most often the stuff I capture before and after all the posing that tells the story, Dad pushing the kid on the swing, Mom checking to see if Dad’s collar is straight while he looks at her with both frustration and love.
The camera has always been a kind of technical encumbrance, taking up space between me and the moment. I’ve made my peace with that, but I refuse to believe that it requires a lot of editing work to make a picture presentable. In a world filled with digital perfection, I prefer human imperfection—the terrible, gorgeous truth of who we really are.