The cactus buds I’ve had my eye on the last few days finally blossomed this morning, and boy did they gloriously unfurl! It’s a good thing I captured them when I did, too, because only a couple of hours later they had wilted. These are truly ephemeral beauties. I’m lucky I was there to shoot them and proud that I did.
As I write this, however, I am struck at the similarities between photographers and hunters. Both talking about “shooting” and “capturing.” Both involve the conflict between Man and Nature. Both involve going into Nature and bringing it back to share with Man. A hunter shoots a deer and puts its head and antlers up on the wall. A photographer shoots a deer (or cactus flowers, as the case may be), and puts its image up on the wall (or the Internet, as the case may be). Both hunters and photographers take pride in, and gain social recognition by, what they capture for the delectation of their fellow Men (people).
Of course, nothing is destroyed when one shoots a photograph– at least not in the shooting, anyway. In the showing of a photograph, reputations can be destroyed, lies can be betrayed, damning or incriminating evidence can be brought to light, etc. Depending on the way you look at it, this could be damaging for the guilty and helpful to the innocent. But sometimes photographs are damaging to innocents.
I would like to think that when I take a photograph, I am being still and letting Nature (or Man, in the case of portraiture) speak to me. Not that I am “capturing” it, but that I am creating a space (camera means “chamber” or “room”) for it to enter into and reveal itself to me and all who will gaze at its image. Lately, when I’ve been photographing, I’ve tried to be meditative and say to my subject, “Speak to me. I’m listening.” I do this because I feel guilty and a little bit ugly in my instinct to shoot, capture, and frame this thing of beauty– this thing over which I have no control.