I don't want pictures filled with photography, I want pictures with some...mystery. With enough experience we can almost always make a good picture, a nice representation of a beautiful or evocative thing. Much rarer is a picture filled with something more, some indefinable thing, a mysterious spirit we can not command but which calls to many who see it. I don't know how to call for that at will and I don't think anyone else does either. At best I can sometimes put myself in the proper spirit to receive it and when I do...sometimes it comes.
This week I've been working on pictures of a Buddha that sits in the hallway of my house. The hallway is quiet, a place that ties the dining room to the breakfast room. There is a stairway that leads upstairs. No light of its own, only the light that filters through from the other rooms.
In this space the Buddha stands. He's carved from wood and not too big, dark and smooth with a patina of age. Most people never notice him. I bought him at a flea market a few months ago. Something about it spoke of the person who had made it, maybe their intention. In any case I brought him home and moved him from place to place until finally I tried him in the hallway - and then he was happy, or maybe it was me.
This week I spent some time trying to capture the spirit of my new Buddha. I moved him out into the dining room to have enough room to work and turned him and moved him until the light was nice. I shot with an old lens, a manual focus macro. When you make pictures this small the tiniest movement is magnified. An inch becomes the difference between mouth and forehead and each turn of the subject or adjustment of the camera is hugely magnified. Working this way is a wonderful exercise in patience and very calming to me.
I made pictures for an hour or two; hands, feet, face, the shape, always looking for one that would sum up the whole.
The viewfinder is a tiny window, often too dark and small for me to see through clearly so sometimes I just go by feel, letting impression guide me along the way until the work feels done. These pictures were made that way, just feeling my way along.
I have a favorite of course. I always do even if looking back later I change my mind. For now, the middle one expresses best the feeling I had when I first connected to him. Not completely maybe but a piece of the thing that connects us, the mystery between us.