Friday, 17 February 2012

See and Know

Photograph by kind permission of Catherine Arranger

One of the benefits of Facebook - like all benefits it has its shadow side - is making friends with people from far away through friends and friends of friends. One such friend of mine took this lovely photograph of a door, in her home town in Southern France, and then posted it on Facebook . . . as one does. 

Yet this photograph was very different from many I see there - and something she said in her posting caught my attention. She has passed this door on an almost daily basis for the last 25 years, and only Now has she photographed it.

One of the 'benefits' of Facebook, is as a place where 'we can share our lives with others' - by posting all the many photographs we have taken of family events and the like. Except we are not sharing our lives, because we weren't even there ourselves.

Many years of going to children's school productions still hasn't solved something for me - despite trying to figure this out I cannot understand something that goes on both relentlessly and increasingly at such occasions - 'Proud Parents' recording it all for posterity - OBSERVING their child through the editorial influence of a camera or Video lens - for the sake of Memory. Yet how can you remember something which you were not present at? Not fully engaged in, or not sufficiently engaged in that you could find time to take all those photos - desperate to preserve a memory, but not actually there to remember - to soak in the atmosphere - to be Present - to Participate.

My friend's photograph I thought was lovely. For 25 years she had got to know her subject - indeed until that moment she had not treated the door as such, but rather as part of the fabric, the warp and weft of her life. It had a Life that was and is part of hers - there was mutual participation.

If this is true of a door, how much more so of a person?

Photography and especially video photography are very late on the block in terms of human history. They come into our world when more than ever we live in the era of the 'Triumph' of the individual - where we have learnt to separate ourselves from others to stand alone - so that we may watch them and they us. Photography is one example of a technology that is actually revealing the truth about the world we live in, by its very existence. It is an expression of our isolation, our aloneness -  and I speak as a occasionally keen amateur photographer.

'Less sophisticated' people than us, when first encountering a camera shy away, for fear you are stealing their soul. In a sense they are very right, for our essence as human beings is not as individuals but in relationship. The Essence of Being is the God who is Love. When we abstract ourselves from relationship to stand as the dispassionate or selfish observer (just trying to get the right photo of a person for our gratification and to feed our pride) - we break the bonds of love in order to stand apart.

As with all technology, cameras should come with a relational warning - it should say on the box,
 'not to be used on subjects with whom you have not been intimately associated for at least 25 years'
It is a myth that we can extract ourselves from life at no cost to ourselves - when we extract ourselves from life for even a moment we die a little

Life requires our Presence - we are enjoined to Participation. 
Put another way you cannot hold a camera or a video and join in the dance :)

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