February 5th, 2017 … Passing Thru … Eye Contact … of Life and Death … Paul Strand
My problem is that I read too much. It’s true I tell ya. I read Blogs all the time. I mean many bloggers are subscribed to me and I too them. It’s amuses me that some will be so steadfast on a position that it’s humorous without being funny at all. One of the things a guy I just read was about eye contact and how it was all important in street work. Well, maybe it is and maybe, just maybe there is a point raised about what the eyes are seeing in this point of contact. Is eye contact about the subject peering into the camera and not realizing or realizing that a photo is or is not being made? If eye contact is about just seeing the subject peering at us from the photo, well I suppose I differ on opinion and maybe even the popular opinion I don’t do well with anyway.
I studied the photos of Paul Strand very intensely. When you look at his portraits whether candid as they say but he never did, or set up, one instantly FEELS the subject and Strand at the same time. I saw unpublished photos that Paul made of Hazel, his wife and partner thru life and love. I would feel this warmth inside me and a longing that I couldn’t explain. I would ask Ding and he just looked at me and I knew he had the same feelings I was experiencing.
I didn’t understand how we could feel things from the photos and they were shared feelings. Then it dawned on me years later as I was making photos of my wife and kids. I had made a portrait of my mother in her apartment and it was stark with just a lamp over head. When I saw the print, I understood Paul Strands work as never before.
Strand wasn’t making portraits of people or Hazel that were superficial at all. Strand was making photos of LIFE and DEATH. He was aware the the moment would pass instantly from his view and Death would haunt him for his life. Some say I am infatuated with death and it comes across a lot in my feelings and thoughts. It’s true but if we don’t appreciate death and the totality of it’s birth upon us, we will never taste life that we have and just go thru living as if there is no tomorrow.
Strand saw Hazel in his photos and the fact that he saw destiny as they grow older and reach the end of life as we know it. He had the ability to see all of life in that manner. More then any photographer before him. It’s why it took a while or the 291 club and Stieglitz to understand Strand’s work and passion. The big reason is because as talented as the others were, Strand showed promise to be a loner and a leader in the future.
The understanding of what photography does most and best, is the recording of memories. Look at any photographer you admire and the observance of life and death will or should be in the work. It’s the single common denominator and yet, countless shooters will deny the power and reason for the intent of making memories. They will feel and believe that for as long as they are gifted not with their life but with the life of their loved ones.
Perhaps this is a good reason to learn to MAKE photos and not TAKE photos. So, the next time you make photos, be aware that time will pass and things will change but the biggest change will be inside you. Paying attention to the change of seasons of our life will make us be alive not just be present.