I am enthralled with light. The right sort of light is the hunger at the heart of my black and white photography. That moment when the piece I am working with suddenly strikes this perfect balance of white on black. As if a piece of me suddenly solidifies out of the ether, into this very potent now, that did not exist before.
Possibly it did not exist.
Maybe we are all manifesting ourselves, moment to moment, by what we create and connect within our lives. Versions of ourselves no different than photography filters. Each choice, each passion, each belief, steadily constructing this moment’s version of ourselves, that could change with the next decision.
It’s said that the distance between molecules is so great within us, that we are really made up of more nothing than something. That at a subatomic level what we think we are is ether, nothingness, vast empty landscapes of potentiality waiting to erupt into existence. Dynamic vapors each of us, winking into existence over and over again at such high speeds, we appear like something out of nothing. I am a snapshot, then another, and another after that. Each a version of myself I am in existence for the briefest of times before I wink out and become something new and fresh again.
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. I need only change my mind, make a new decision, intend something I have never intended so powerfully before.
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 a 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 center 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. When I slip into my imperfections, my ugliness, my sense of brokenness I am then, as with the photography, really looking for the light in the center of that now moment. My ego can confuse me into thinking it’s the darkness I have come to wallow in, but that is a delusion, too. I am walking in the dark, allowing it to show me where my lights are. I am feeling my way, rather than thinking my way to my edges or lack of any sometimes.
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 not see it with any known measuring scale or technique because it interacts with nothing known to us. We know it exists, however, by its 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. 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. I am more complex by my awareness of all sides of my nature, not diminished by this awareness.
All of this is really to say we do not understand the darkness.
We do not 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 not 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 boundless 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 shadows themselves. White on black, black on white.
When I look at how my own goodness has come to me, or maybe it is better to say floated to the surface and shown itself, it’s on its arrival in my darkest moments. Its 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 its 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.