I’ve given up photographing objects: these days, all I want to capture is the angular intersection of line and light.
I suppose some photographers venture out of their houses specifically looking for images; me, I let lines and light come to me. Like a cat curling into the warm spot created by an angled sunbeam, yesterday my attention was drawn to the glowing spots where light slanted through window blinds, the slats creating a geometrically interesting slant. Seeing the world sliced is novel enough; seeing the world not as object but as shape is even more novel, the mind skimming the surface outline of things rather than sinking to the level of name. This is no longer “house,” and that is no longer “tree”: now they each are an interesting, intertwined constellation of line and angle, a geometry problem arranged in two dimensions like a sketch. Haven’t you ever longed to leave the world of reality and enter the purely theoretical? The world of shape and line is super-real, a realm apart where even ugly objects allure with sensuous shapes and forms.
As a writer, I’ve always been transfixed by lines; as a photographer, I’ve come to fall in love with light. Have you considered the miracle that brings a nascent god into our midst every day? At Keene State, there is a stone monument honoring the scientists who study gravity, a force we seldom remember as being essential to our mundane lives…but where do we remember the miraculous power of light, the very fabric of our existence as seen and seeing creatures? Take nearly any object, shine some light on its matter, and you will behold an interesting and intriguing thing: even the dusty, well-worn floor in an aging house, its boards sliced thin by slatted sun, glows with unadorned wonder. What is this? How many times have I seen and passed by, unaware?
Carrying a digicam with me these past three years, I’ve become a connoisseur of light and line, relishing the varied ways each falls and lies. What is the world but a tangled, tender matrix of light and line, each splayed into varied vectors? If we were to strip objects to their constituent parts, we’d be left with the angles of light and line, a child’s drawing of sticks and circles. The sun is a circle surrounded by beaming sticks; we ourselves are sticks intersected and folded.
The lines and light in our lives typically go unheeded; we notice them as little as fish notice water. Instead, like children we are tempted by baubles, grasping and clinging to the objects of daily life with their discreet names and forms: window, wall, floor. But that which lies behind these objects, the Thing that fills and sustains them, is nothing more than Light and Line. A blind man can feel the warmth of light on his face; a blind woman can trace the outline of a window sill with her hand. How blind are we sighted ones, then, who forget both surface and shape because of our insipid search for the Deep Meaning of things?
If there were no meaning, we’d satisfy ourselves with the superficial surface of things, and presumably we’d be happy, wandering the world like the newly sighted, awed and aghast at the profusion of shapes that surround us. Instead, we look at the world and tell ourselves there must be More, refusing to embrace a sea of shape as All We’ve Got. On winter afternoons, though, a certain slat of light more than suffices, brimming and welling into the sunken surface of things, spilling into the space a poet reserves for joy.