I am enthralled with bits of light. The heart of my interest in black and white photography is the hunger for the right sort of light. It’s an odd feeling, that moment when the piece you are working with suddenly strikes this perfect balance of white on black. As if a piece of me suddenly solidifies out of the ether, into that very moment, that didn’t exist before.
And possibly it didn’t exist.
Maybe we are all manifesting ourselves moment to moment by what we create and connect with in our lives. Versions of ourselves no different than photography filters. Each choice, each passion, each belief, steadily constructing this moments version of ourselves, that could change with the next decision.
It’s said we are mostly nothing, the distance between molecules being so great within us. That at a subatomic level we are more nothing than something. Dynamic vapors each of us, winking into existence over and over again at such high speeds, we appear like something out of nothing.
In photography, I can pull out light and deepen shadows, dramatically altering the quality of an image. I can tweak the shades of gray and imbue a scene with opalescent highlights.
I can do this in character and perspective, too. Change who I am, drawing out more of one quality over another. These days I lean toward more light, less darkness, but it’s there, my shadow side. She is, in every sense an old, if not often deluded friend. But her delusions about how the world works, have just become the backdrop for seeing my way into more profound truths. My darker side is not an aberration, but part of my artistry. A necessary depth in the dimensional me I come to learn anew each day. She lurks in the dark spots of the wave, the dense parts of mountainsides, the vanishing portion of a blade of grass. My shadow is what sets the stage for my light.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: Photo by Noelle
It’s clear there is always some focal point or object at the heart of my search in each image. Yet, it can only come by its contrast to structures around it that are darker. The contrast of white on black, shows me something I came to see.
Look at any of these images and the sea of darkness far outweighs the light. In fact, at a qualitative level, the intensity of the light is in direct proportion to the amount of darkness that surrounds it. The greater the sea of darkness the more intense the bits of light.
Old Harbor, Block Island, RI: Photo by Noelle
Dark matter in the Universe, in a sense, seems to work this way, too. We can’t see it with any known measuring scale or technique because it interacts with nothing known to us. We know it exits however, by it’s gravitational pull on the objects we do see. It is the force that surrounds the things illuminated to us.
I feel this inside of me more and more each day. The more I turn into what disturbs me, darkens my doorway, makes me want to pull away from myself, only accents how powerfully light the other parts of me are. They go hand and hand, this white on black.
All of this is really to say we don’t understand darkness.
We don’t appreciate its value, weight and importance in understanding what we deeply wish to see. That each goes hand and hand with the other. We have such fear of pain and suffering we can’t perceive what part darkness plays in our lives, inside our psyche or in how things are unfolding all around us. We break things down into good or bad, right or wrong, but this really robs us of a larger context and meaning to the people, places and things we interact with.
I look upon the shadows cast by these mountain trail wildflowers. They are of the flowers, of course, and yet they have a beauty unto themselves that changes throughout the day, as the sun moves across a vast expanse of sky. The beauty of the flowers is bolder against the dark shadows that dance around them all day long. Even more delicious the darkness of the shadow can only be experienced by the white sand that rests beneath the cast shadow. White on black, black on white.
When I look at how my own goodness has come to me, or maybe its better to say floated to the surface and shown itself, it’s oddly by its arrival within dark moments. It’s weight and quality are not understood exclusively alone, but by how I perceived the darkness around these pieces of luminescence within me. Or how it seems the darkness itself refracts back to me a light, I could’ve only seen by the very darkness I dreaded to face inside of myself.
I look at the image below, and feel a deep sense of peace as the light of small leaves rises out of the dark forest floor. I understand the balance I feel inside myself, as the image finds it’s right balance of white on black.
So much of me is light petals on dark, earthy mulch.
If you enjoyed this piece, I would be honored if you checked out my book, Into Your Meditation available by clicking on this link or the one on the upper right hand sided of this post.