“It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends,” Joan Didion wrote. With my love for photography, its beginnings are harder to see and its ends I easily believe will never come. Perhaps my love is like that of a child to her mother: so innate it abounds undetected. In fact, my earliest memories of photography involve my mother. It is her photo of a Nepalese girl that still sears my mind: dirt clinging to her skin, hair matted against her face, dressed in rough, tearing burlap. She stares back with kohl-smeared eyes: haunting, sad, uncomfortably beautiful.
When not gazing at old photographs, my mother subjected my brother and me to her lens. “In Nepal, you must ask to take a photograph,” she told us. “Otherwise, they believe you’re stealing their soul.” From then on, my brother refused to pose for her.
I would find out later, the photo of the Nepalese girl was taken with a telephoto lens. My mother never asked for permission. Still, she stares so directly into the camera. As if knowing her photo was being taken, as if wanting to be captured.
I tell you this only because I realize my beliefs about photography, good photography, hinge upon that old photo and that old story. Photos should provide an element of escape: a medium to experience and relish in beauty, in an irreplaceable moment. But escape without reflection - of reality, the subject, the self, and hopefully, humanity - remains artifice and artifice disinterests me. Unkempt rawness in a photo attracts me: the capture and reveal of the subject’s soul – so piercing, the beholders own breaks in two.