Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Hello Lomo!

I have so much enthusiasm for lomography right now! At the moment, I've just been experimenting with the instant back attachment on the LC-A+, taking polariod-like pictures at random and watching them come to life in my hands.

The instants come in packs of ten, and my initial gut reaction was to want each one to be worthy of being treasured. The pictures feel vulnerable. I wanted to only take the best shots and keep them somewhere really safe as a testament to the glowing moments, the beautiful times. It's early days, but I can already feel the futility that approach. 

I'm right at the beginning of learning to use the camera - some of the photos aren't great. Even when I improve, inevitably some of these credit-card sized prints will get lost, have something spilt on them or be tarnished in another way. Clutching at them because they're unique doesn't help me to enjoy their uniqueness - it just detracts from the joy of making the images in the first place. Better to hold them lightly for the sake of a rich "in the moment" experience rather than guarding them closely out of fear.

The whole Lomo experiment is a small echo that makes sense of something I've been contemplating recently in the riddles of Jesus:

"Anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. 
But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal."
(John 12v25 MSG) 

It's easy to accidentally end up spending so much time and energy fiercely accumulating tokens of our worthiness: things, status, achievements, pictures that prove we meant something to someone or have done something interesting with our lives. But the more precious I make those tokens, the more important it becomes for me to defensively maintain them at all costs, and the more likely it is that they will eventually morph into burdens.

I don't want to be weighed down by a stack of photos I feel I can't let go of. So I'm starting to make some of them into cards. I love that these pictures are the only record of a particular space and time, a snapshot in the truest sense. They're special because of that. But because of that it also feels extra special to be liberal with them, to give something of mine that's irreplaceable to someone else and paradoxically feel enriched by that act, rather than diminished. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

I Believe in Stories

A couple of things have left me wanting to write this post, but it's turning out to be one of the tricky ones where I don't feel very eloquent...

These are the triggers.
One: I've just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Two: A friend shared the Mama Hope video above on their facebook page.

I guess a nebulous connection is that they both challenge racial stereotypes and go some way to redefining the realities presented by fiction. But I've been mulling them both over and I think the broader point I feel so strongly about is this: I believe in stories.

We have a lot of information. And we have a cacophony of opinions. Stories, though, they do something else. Stories help us see bits of the world or ourselves that we can't necessarily take on board in the cold light of day. They create a more manageable ecosystem with a beginning, middle and end. Even the more thought-provoking narratives will have a limit to the number of tricky issues they throw at an audience. We never have to be completely overwhelmed in the way that life can make us feel. We get to explore new things (or escape familiarities) in the safety that comes from slight detachment: this is not, after all, "real life".

But stories are powerful. Repeatedly telling the same kind of story at the expense of others enshrines one view of normalcy and acceptability. The stories become a lense, a kind of shorthand for knowing the "real world". Narratives shape world views. World views shape attitudes. Attitudes shape actions. Actions shape cultures. And culture is the ocean we swim in and the air we breathe: we only notice it when someone cuts across it, exposing the construct and making us question the assumptions we didn't even know we held.

Stories are powerful.

That's why we need more storytellers. We need the playwrights, the scriptwriters, the poets, the novelists. We also need the honest people: the ones who say it like it is from their point of view, whether or not they use fiction as a vehicle. We need the truth-tellers. And we need them to come from every corner of society and of the globe. We really do. How else will we know ourselves? How else will we learn? 

How else will we change the world?

Monday, 8 June 2015

"The Bridges of Madison County"

Photo credit: screen shot of a still from the film in the Photo Gallery on IMDb

Starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood
Based on novel by Robert James Waller

This film about a married mother's affair has come into my life via extended family and I have no idea how I feel about it. There's something melancholy and unsettling about it but, at the same time, words like "uplifting" and "redemptive" don't seem out of place either. It's complex. Like life. I think I react strongly to its themes because seeing someone lost inside their own life scares me: I don't ever want to be in that position. And I guess, from that fear, part of me judges Meryl Streep's character, Francesca, for ending up in that state.

Not long after seeing this film for the second time, I had a conversation with someone who essentially shares a similar world-view to me but phrases things in language that makes me uncomfortable. Her expression of things close to my heart has less nuances and more certainties. As she talked about her views, I could feel myself growing increasingly defensive. Hostile even. And I'm so sorry for it. Because I was judging her too.

It is easy to judge. Too easy. And labels can feel handy and necessary when the alternative is having to actually grapple with how little we really know of other people, and even ourselves. But I think this film and the aftermath of watching it makes me re-realise that I don't want to waste my energy being critical of other people.

I would love to be a voice of insight and challenge, someone capable of calling out the best in others before they recognise it in themselves. But more importantly, I also want to know how to mind my own business and take care of my own life. That's the task I'm really held accountable for: the small but essential business of being me.

So I want to live and let live.

Because I think if I can really live - if I can get into the guts of my own life, mining it for all it's worth, if I can cherish people and experiences and be generous with my kindness and gifts - that will surely turn out well for all of us. That will surely point to something special and Someone more worthy of our attention than the details that seemingly divide us.
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