Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Daily Practice 55/365

Title: "Ode to the Snapshot"
(click to view larger)

Like all art forms, photography should come from a place of personal meaning and significance to the artist. Yet I believe it is also true that not every photograph I make needs to have a specific meaning or significance to the viewer, as long as it has meaning for me. And I also realized that there can be personal satisfaction in taking a simple snapshot to commemorate something of personal significance. Not every image has to fulfill some higher artistic purpose.

I was thinking about this idea this morning. Truth be told, I had a better opportunity to make this image a bit earlier in the morning. The sky was overcast, and the light really made the blossoming tree "pop" against the background. By the time I finished breakfast and picked up a camera, that ideal moment had past, and I almost didn't make this image. I felt the moment had past and all that I would achieve would be a fairly run of the mill, nice but mundane image.

But I asked myself why I had been drawn to make the image in the first place. And I realized it had less to do with ideal light and more to do with the significance of the scene. It's mid February, and all the flowering trees are in bloom here, easily two months early. In the early 80s, my wife and I were doing a postdoc in Illinois and looking for permanent positions. I had interviewed at a variety of places, and had a few job offers. One of the calls with a job offer came in mid February from the place I'm currently employed. It was one of the coldest winters Illinois had seen in many years, following the snowiest winter the year before. The department chair said he was calling to let me know that the cherry trees were in full bloom up in Canada, somehow implying without directly saying that this happened every year. As it turned out, we accepted his job offer and moved back to Canada to an area generally agreed to be one of the most pleasant places to live in this country. And then we waited, winter after winter, without seeing cherry blossoms in February. Now our winters are fairly mild, we only get snow once or twice that sticks around for perhaps a week or so. Otherwise it's grey and rainy here. So we were perfectly happy, but felt sure that we'd been "punked" about the February blossoms. Until 9 years later, when the trees definitely were in bloom in February. And once every nine years since - my wife and I always remark about it.

So this simple snapshot has personal meaning to me. And I wanted to take it to commemorate the fact that my sister-in-law is going to be leaving the cold, cold winters of Ontario to join us here come May. And I will not only tell her the trees blossomed in February, but I'll show her the snapshot as evidence. Because it might be nine years before she experiences it for herself.

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