Friday, December 26, 2014

The (He)Art of Photography

Photography is about a lot of things -- technology, aesthetics, what we call an eye, etc. Sometimes what really matters, though, is the HeArt. HeArt is present (or needs to be) when capturing scenes that convey a moment of beauty or wonder in nature. It is in the photos of passing occasions that we hope will reignite memories with each viewing.  Every so often I get the chance with my work to realize, again, how important HeArt can be and the power that a photograph can have.   

HeArt includes all the elements of artistry and technical quality that make a photo a really good one, but what sets it apart from other good photographs is the strong thread of emotion and message.  A photo with HeArt has the capacity to touch the viewer in special ways.  You know it when you see it on the cover of a magazine. The challenge in doing photography with HeArt is wrapped up in the fact that I, as the photographer, have different life experiences and frames of reference than the viewer. I am in this space at this time witnessing something and the viewer is not here. In addition, would the viewer see it the same way if he or she were here? How do I bridge that gap between myself and the viewer, and how do I create a photo that will communicate in the way that I hope?  This all leads to a bigger question: how can I use my work as a photographer to truly make a difference? 

I had an opportunity recently that reinforced for me the responsibility (and the privilege) of trying to do photography with HeArt.  On several occasions in late 2014 I photographed a number of classes for Keshet Dance Company.  This is an amazing organization that is doing a lot in the Albuquerque area to promote not only dance but development of the arts. In addition to their own company and repertory, they offer a Pre-Professional training program and are involved in an impressive array of community outreach. They take dance to low-income, at-risk, homeless and incarcerated youth; they offer classes in a variety of modalities from ballet to hip-hop and dance fitness. They have special classes for people with various limitations consistent with their stated philosophy that "everyone can dance."  I saw people of all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life, including children and adults with significant mobility impairments, dancing. And loving it. And feeling good and proud and acting as if they could fly.  There is something incredibly moving about seeing someone dance from a wheelchair or without the constraints of a mobility aid. All of this took place in an atmosphere of tremendous energy, smiles, affirmations, and positive interactions among staff and participants, with young ballerinas, hip hop teens, and the wheel-chair bound and those with sensory limitations all dancing! At Keshet, people get in touch with an aspect of being a whole human that so many of us have trained out of us through critique and comparison and growing self-consciousness once we start listening to the voices of others rather than our own inner desires.   And I got to witness those facets of humanness that exist for us all but, for too many, remain well buried.  Keshet shows that we all can blossom in ways we might not imagine if we have a supportive and positive environment and if we aren't too focused on what those naysaying voices keep chanting in our heads.   I am too old, too arthritic, too out of shape, too whatever....

So my challenge - to capture photos that let their Heart shine through to anyone who might see them.  I needed photos with HeArt. 

Merely documenting what happens at Keshet might have been sufficient to get the message out to the broader public for their use in marketing and fund-raising. Sure, I needed to provide photographs that were technically correct (walls of mirrors and fluorescent lights do create some challenges) and composed well. But when immersed in a situation that is nearly magical, the photos need to communicate, evoke, move ... I hope the photos are able to do that for others in the way that I was moved by my experience of being there.  I hope my photography can capture in some small way the heart that they put into their work every day.  It is a challenge, but also a privilege, to be in situations that call for photography with HeArt.

Some photos from that session can be seen here:  Keshet Dance Company
Keshet has the photo releases, so I'm linking to their posts. 

Follow this to their Facebook page. Like, and support this great organization!