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On Photography…

The ticket in her little white book….all these things into position…..like fire, seeking air……leave your words…..between her chin and her shoulder….

I lost a dear friend in photographer Rick Ochoa (who shot the image of me above that now hangs him my home, a 1-of-1 autographed print), and while I don’t want to elaborate on the grief that I feel in that absence, the overall experience of losing someone that I was so creatively connected to, and who was so rooted into my own friendships and collaborations- it’s as though a key cornerstone has suddenly vanished, leaving the entire structure at risk of collapse…. I want to talk to you about Photography, and what I’ve had reinforced in myself in that grief-and the things that, as a result hadn’t quite notice needing being said.

Rick used the above bits and pieces of songs {that opened this post} to title, no- to illustrate his photographs. He was involved his own search for his photographic voice and embarked on a project to re-edit every shoot and re-explore every moment, and tie those to the present tense and past tense in one fell swoop, and did so exquisitely.

Photography for many is a way to enjoy the world around them. For people like Rick, and myself: It’s a necessary evil. It’s a darkness, as much as it is about the light. By seeking the light you banish the darkness. . .

Sure, I shoot the off-photo that is just A Pretty Picture. There is art in something so simply beautiful and sometimes for “a living”, that’s what you do as a photographer- blend that line between art and commerce, but when we’re talking about the REAL photographer within me, albeit linked to that commercial voice, the aritst, the Photographer — she is a monster.

She is obsessive and relentless, seeking the truth without asking, but never by taking either. Surreptitious and solid, never anything that I’m necessarily in control of. There are the rules, the techniques, and when to use and when to lose them become all a part of the dance.

I’m manipulating the world around me to say what I want to say, what I feel like needs to be said.

Rick did this. He did this well. I would often see a finished photo from one of our shoots {from meeting and befriending Rick as his model} and find that I would just need to sit with it, to be still with it- to be able to accept it. And there was no running from it at that point- the truth was staring me in the face. My own face- showing me what I try so hard to keep hidden.

Rick would find it, pull it out and put it out there for everyone to see: No take backs.

He could drive out the dark by placing it into the light. What an Awesome {as in the true sense of the word- great and glorious and expansive and unknown} aspiration.

I’m not sure Rick could have sat down here and told us this about himself, but we could all see it. More importantly: He could feel it.

Photography is about feeling. The visual part is merely contextual. Your camera can become a type of familiar, channeling the magic into your frames, but to achieve this furthest-most point in art {because now we’re talking about both} you have to be Present.

Those little intuitions that should drive your photography are hard to notice. With practice, like a yogi- you can live inside of this perma-presence, but most of us aren’t there. It takes a massive amount of bravery to be an artist; to be able to impart your sense of self into the world with a grace and ease while staying true to your voice and your experience is not a light undertaking, and while many people become good photographers, the GREATS are constantly reaching into themselves and placing this importance upon more than just the photo: It’s about the ‘damage’ that photo can do: the impact, wether positive or negative, on the eventual viewer and the ability to stand as a Witness and absorb the viewer’s baggage and stay as something that both illuminates the past, but sets up the future, gives an answer, a motivation- something to keep it all moving forward.

That’s what we’re doing here, right? We’re making sure that time keeps ticking- locking little moments inside of our little plastic bodies. You may think that all you do is take pretty pictures, and if that’s the case, well, you’re just selling yourself short. And the rest of us as well.

Why else photography? There are a million things, a billion types of media and ways to vocalize and perpetuate your existence in this chapter of History- so why a camera, why the visual? Why?

For people like Rick and me, it’s about running from and seeking out at the same time. That dichotomy that we dance between is what reveals the illusions we choose to manipulate to create that Witness that can stand before you and those who come after you and mean something.

Photography is a special medium in that you are innately ‘tricking’ the viewer into believing anything you’re saying, because of the reality offered by the medium. No matter what the subject, it will feel more real than any painting or illustration or soundscape can capture. Use that. Dive into that. Dive into yourself, dive into your world and really say something.

Don’t talk yourself out of expressing a moment or a feeling in your way just because it’s uncomfortable.

Art should be uncomfortable. It is, afterall, being created by a monster. It is the truth, in that moment, of that idea, of that time-ticking-forever-away-from-us fear process. Seize it. Be a monster, and be greedy and be generous and charming and whatever it takes to tell the truth. Or your version of the truth- because that’s just it! Like everything else, that ‘reality’ that we’re casting into stone is merely an illusion, like all things.

A collection of photons that represents a collection of atoms- the Universe choosing to manifest itself as that ‘thing’, those ideas, that instant.

Photography is a dance. Beauty and the beast; the dark and the light; the seeker and that which does not wish to be found.

I’ll leave you with the above; let it resonate; sit with it; dip into those dark recesses and please, please remember that those little ticking time bombs are flying by us, never to be had again and one day: it will be too late.

Rick said it, Loud, in every breath, with every snap of the shutter- and don’t fool yourself into believing that I’m saying he never shot a bad photo, but that the In-betweens were just as important as the Truths, as the path to truth can be fraught with obstructions.

Below is one of those Truths. It will be a different Truth to you than it is to me, and that is so wonderfully beautiful.

Red, Red Fire Is

-(2013 write-date), Carly O’Neil aka carlyadastra

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