Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The camera’s transformative ability to elevate that one, quickly forgotten second in a strangers life beyond the un-noted common and create a meaningful, singular event with such a powerful story to tell of it constantly amazes me. One snap of the shutter and that instant is captured and static forever…but as static and unchanging as that moment may now be, the story it tells each viewer is as unique and various as they are themselves. And we take these miraculous little machines for granted – everybody has one. We're so enriched by this little commonplace technology, aren't we?

I ran across a story this morning about photographer Vivian Maier and the treasure trove of work she left behind after her death. She worked as a nanny, and in her free time would take her camera out and wander the city taking photo after photo. Amazingly she never saw many of those moments again - much of her work is still undeveloped film, as though she was moving so quickly from one moment to the next in others lives she never had time to savor and reflect upon the moments of her own. It’s a strange contrast between the artist herself and her own art, I thought. The work that has been recovered and viewed has been impressive enough to merit several exhibitions. I've included a link to the video I saw below.

The last shot, the little boy with his nose pressed against the window-glass between himself and the world outside…fearless but curious and a bit puzzled by what he sees looking back at him, made me immediately think of my own son and all his firsts, about how fiercely I want to preserve that innocence and wonder in him forever, just as Vivian did. I looked into her boys eyes while the news informed me of the latest school shooting, and bowed my head and cried. I don't want mine touched by the ugliness some of us carry, for reasons that are beyond me. I don’t want to see his sweetness turned to ash.

“Why, mama?”

I don’t know, baby. I just know I’m releasing you to a beautiful, savage world of infinite possibility, and I can’t keep you safe behind the glass much longer. Somehow I have to equip you to survive the horrors life brings long enough to appreciate the wonders it brings as well. With Gods help, I will do my best to make you strong and keep your heart open.

Thank you for your gifts Vivian Maier, and my prayers and heart go out to all those who have suffered loss and pain in the past weeks.