Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Working With Words and Images

This weekly column pleases some and annoys others. One of the newspapers in which it runs editorialized years ago that people either love it or hate it. Last week’s edition featured a letter from Connecticut residents who summer in Casco, Maine and describing my columns as “filled with vitriol and hate.” The writers threatened to cancel their subscription should the columns continue to appear. This week, a letter from a local woman appeared declaring the columns to be a “breath of fresh air.” She sends them to friends in Connecticut who “enjoy [my] approach on state and national issues.”

My photographs are received differently. Some people love them while others just seem indifferent. Photographs don’t generate controversy the way columns do. They either resonate with viewers or they don’t. Some people like them well enough they throw down money for enlargements to hang on their walls, but no one has yet felt compelled to express a negative opinion.

Thinking and feeling go into creating both a photograph and a column. When I see something beautiful or dramatic, I have to think about how to frame the scene — what angles to use and what settings to make on my camera and lens. Then come cropping and editing. Lastly, I must decide which photos to keep and which to discard. Columns and photographs each communicate my view of the world to others, yet some ideas expressed in the columns grate on people while images in the photos do not.

Often I need a break from writing when my brain gets tired as I struggle to find words that adequately express what’s in it. I’ll get up and walk around a bit, then return to the computer and pull up photographs to edit instead of the unfinished column. I’m using my brain again, but a different part of it. Working with images can energize me after a search for words has exhausted me.

There’s deadline pressure when writing columns every week, but there can be time pressure when taking photographs too. Walking or driving, I’ll stop and try to capture a passing scene, but by the time I have my camera in hand with the proper settings, the light has changed and the opportunity has passed. In another case, I’d been watching a nesting loon on Kezar Lake for weeks, boating to the site several times trying to be there for a photo of her chick. Last Saturday I saw that she had left the nest. I looked all around that section of the lake for her and the chick but never saw them.

Some letter-writers have declared my columns are the sole reason they buy a paper. Others fulminate against them, heaping scorn on both me for writing them and the paper for publishing them. I wonder why they don’t just skip over the column. What compels them to read it? It must be something akin to attending a horror movie or reading a Stephen King novel. Why take the time to view something you know will disturb you? Is it the adrenaline rush? Maybe they’re progressives trying to expose themselves to a conservative view — and then get so incensed they must write something scathing in opposition.

When seeing my photographs hanging somewhere, people can either can stop and look or just walk on by. Unlike angry readers, those who see my photos don’t feel compelled to share negative impressions. I’ve never gotten an email, a letter, a phone call, a text, or a comment that my photos are incendiary, hateful, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, or vitriolic.

It’s not as if all my images depict beautiful things. I have pictures of gruesome things like a hawk tearing a robin apart, an eagle ripping up a fish, an approaching thunderstorm about to snap off trees or uproot them, a gathering of angry protesters, a fight between an eagle and an osprey, and hunters looking for deer to kill. People seem to just accept these images as depictions of reality, but when I write about unsavory actions by leftist politicians or by certain protected minority groups, I’m excoriated as a hate-filled villain.

Every week I spend hours both writing and working with photographs. The extra income is nice but I do it because I like it, especially moving from one to the other. Photography takes me outside. It gets me up early to catch morning light. Never do I catch all the beauty in a scene that inspires me, but sometimes I can obtain a reasonable facsimile. Writing makes me sit down and reflect on things.

I can think of worse ways to spend my remaining time on this earth, so I guess I’ll continue.

1 comment:

CaptDMO said...

Oh you damned kids these days and your digital in-camera editing, photoshop, printer editing, and posting on line.....
HOURS...timed exposures, dodging, burning, retouching (no air brush),mounting, matting,crafted frames... and that was just for black and white!
In the end, upon reflection, I'm pretty sure of all the "presentation" photos I ever made, I think the number of them I was 100%, completely, positively, satisfied with was .....zero.
And OF COURSE some of my personal favorites were ones I managed by absolute freak of nature, dumb luck, tripping over backwards into.
Of all the art on the walls at home, approximately ZERO of it is my own.
Meh, to each their own.

I still have a healthy amount of old (B&W)negitives and photos around that survived the great (idiotic) heave -ho. I could PROBABLY get a fair amount of silver out of them with the appropriate nasty chemicals and a dry cell battery.