The Power of a Photograph

There is an Ansel Adams quote I particularly like: "When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." 

I think I like it because silence can be the best therapy for me against the trauma of the day. I have long said photography is my voice. Maybe that's changed a bit since becoming a writer, yet maybe it hasn't. Still, when faced with some of the worst events in my life - opposition, strife, illness, whatever - I will fall back on photographs to lift my spirits.

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After all, they don't argue with me. They don't alter or change. The image that blew my mind the first time I saw it, still does. They're also full of infinite possibilities. They never grow old. They're those faithful, old friends that pick me up when I'm down.

Everybody has images like that, whether they carry a camera or not, but for the photographer those are particularly poignant because you remember what you did to get there. Often, I can tell you the settings I used, the mood I was in, what was said by those around me. Or perhaps I tell you nothing at all, and I simply let that photograph "be." There lies the power of it, the healing. It simply "is." 

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No one questions me when I'm taking pictures. That's another benefit. I'm completely ignored, and for an introvert, that's a great thing. I recently took an online learning test, seventy questions meant to tell me which of five ways I learn best. The results were amusing, but not surprising. First, I scored zero on social learning. Social learners do best in classroom environments. That's definitely not me. Second, my highest score was in solitary learning with the next highest listed as visual learning. Again, I had to laugh. 

But at the same time, it brought me back to the basics of life. I, like Ansel Adams, prefer silence. Give me ten minutes to stare at a picture, admire it's shape and form, wonder at the time of day it was taken, what camera was used, and what all was going on inside it, and something in my heart is satisfied. Nothing can get to me there. It's my safe place.

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Ultimately, it's incredibly fulfilling. I take pictures mostly for myself, because something in me demands it, needs it for all those times nothing else seems to be going right. I can pick up my camera knowing F8 is still F8 and no outside pressure is ever going to change that, knowing in the next minute, next second, I might discover something I've never seen before, learn something I didn't know.

I can, with one photograph, encapsulate the wonder of a moment. For others, yes, but mostly for myself. So that weeks, months or years later, when I'm ready to pull my hair out because he said or she said and it wasn't true and I can't handle it anymore, there it stands - a testament to things gone right, a visage that clears my thoughts and empties my mind with the power to simply be there in the first place. 


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Suzanne Williams Blog

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography. 

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