White on Black



Feather on Block Island State Beach: Photo by Noelle

I am enthralled with bits of light. The hunger for the right sort of light, is at the heart of my interest in black and white photography. 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 this very potent now, that didn’t exist before.

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 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.


Visit From My Old, Atlantic Friend: Photo by Noelle

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 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.


Wildflowers in a dark wood: Photo by Noelle

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.


Wild on the trail, Colorado: Photo by Noelle

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 its better to say floated to the surface and shown itself, it’s on its arrival in my darkest 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.


In a wood near Allenspark, CO: Photo by Noelle


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.

Girls of Autumn: Photo Poem

Light Trails: Phot by Noelle

Light Trails: Photo by Noelle

A recent study demonstrated that light-emitting photons continue to emit light for up to twenty-eight days, AFTER, the photon had been removed. That is, the light the photon gave off when it was at a given point in space and time would still exist in that space and time even after the photon had moved on. They found the average degradation of that light was approximately twenty-eight days. Give this some real thought. Imagine as you move through your day that you are quite literally walking through light trails everywhere you go. Not discernible to your naked eye, but there, nonetheless. Look at these little girls running, dancing amongst cattail particles on a sunny day. They are not merely dancing in cattail dust, but dancing in light that is refracted off of every surface that autumn sun hits. And even after the photon hits and leaves, its light gift remains floating there for you to touch. The negative of this picture captures this idea for me, as each little girl appears to be leaving a light shadow.

Psychiatric and therapeutic circles spend a great deal of time discussing what Carl Jung referred to as our “shadow”. The side of us we don’t want to see or confront. Our ‘darker’ aspects. But what if the real story isn’t in our darker side, per se, but in our light shadow? What if, by confronting our darkness what we really find is a light trail we are leaving everywhere we go? What if the trail isn’t a dark shadow at all, but like those light-emiting photons we are leaving light wherever we go?

My favorite Thomas Merton quote goes:
“There is no way to tell people they are walking around shining like the sun.”

Hard to get people to believe, but I will tell you all the same. You are walking around shining like the sun and as in the photograph, you are leaving a light shadow everywhere you go. Embrace that today. Namaste