In the Image of…

christmas card photo by lynn bridgeThe Boy in the Manger

a photo by Lynn Bridge

Someone asked me how I made this photo, so here’s the story. There is nothing glamorous about it!

I started doing ‘movement’ photos last spring when I would walk through Zilker Park and see beautiful nature that was interrupted by some half washed-out cement culvert, or some poultry netting installed in a creek embankment to prevent erosion, or trash.  You get the idea- places that should have been delightful, but weren’t, due to some dilapidated or careless human intervention.

I started transforming the landscape by moving the camera in certain ways, and by controlling the aperture as I captured the images.  This way, I could have the satisfaction of taking what should have been postcard-pretty pictures, but WEREN’T, and making them into something otherworldly, yet vaguely familiar, and compelling.

Sometimes the movement of the camera de-materializes the objects, as it did in this particular Xmas card, but sometimes it takes deep space and makes it seem like a close-up surface, extremely material.

Go ahead and laugh when you find out exactly how I made the Xmas card picture.  First, on a sunny morning, I hauled outside a black-enameled piece of furniture called a kitty-litter box.  (giggle, snort)  Its shiny surface reflected the blue of the sky, yet the black undergirded the shadows.  Next, I perched a fall-leaf wreath on top of the litter box cover.  Then, I placed three porcelain figures from a crèche inside the wreath.  I picked up my camera and took about a million pictures, using different motions and angles, and sometimes moving the whole set-up into a slightly different lighting situation.

Three times I went through this procedure, uploading the photos onto my computer, and looking for a photo that ‘worked’.  Three times must be a charm- I found this photo in the third set I made.  It was created by setting the aperture wide and the timing slow, then moving the camera very quickly from close-up to far away as I was snapping the shutter.

De-materializing the scene has the effect of making it less flesh-and-blood, and perhaps, making it less credible, yet the de-materialization also carries the possibility of making the scene more universal- the figures being composed of light, rather than race or ethnicity or place or time- categories we use to distance ourselves from the ‘other’.  Alternatively, erasing categories prevents the viewer from re-inventing the ‘other’ into an image of himself.  Either viewpoint of the ‘other’ is not quite the truth.  As always, I was looking for truth when I made this photo.

Does this explanation help?