I saw my hand out of the corner of my eye as I sat reading. I could see the bones pushing up the skin, the green veins bulging. I know my hands so well, those veins that for some reason I always like looking at, like rivers in a landscape. I thought of how we see ourselves. How our body looks to us, when we look down at it (we’re almost always looking down at it) How even when we look in the mirror it’s us in reverse.
I looked up at Jon reading on the other side of the room and wondered what I look like to him. He’s seeing me in a way I never get to see my self and of course through his eyes. I can never really know what he sees when he looks at me.
When Jon and I are walking through the woods and he aims his camera, I never know what he’s going to take a picture of. I used to think I knew. But over time I learned that what Jon sees is very different from what I see. What he focuses his camera on is never the thing that I would have chosen to take a picture of.
When you are able to see what’s in front of you differently than the person you’re walking through life with, there are always surprises. For me, in my life with Jon, those surprises are wonderous.
I knew Jon before he started taking pictures. I witnessed him begin to notice the natural world around him. Becoming a photographer brought Jon from a dark place in his life into the light of the world. He literally became obsessed with light. And he shared it, because that’s what he does. Jon wanted other people to be able to see what he was seeing.
Yesterday when we were walking in the woods, Jon stopped in front of a tree. This would be a great black and white photo, he said pointing to the rough bark hanging from a dead tree. I was thinking what sound the tree would make if I drummed it with my hand or a stick. But I could see what Jon was saying.
For the past couple of weeks Jon’s been “seeing” those black and white pictures he wants to take and telling me about them. And I’m starting to be able to see them too. Suddenly the color drains from the scene in front of me as Jon describes what we’ll see in tones and shades of blacks whites and grays. Somehow the subject of the photograph becomes more important. The subtleties of light and texture are more pronounced. There’s actually, somehow, almost more to see.
It’s not better or worse than color photography, only different. Some pictures just need to be in black and white.
So I’m excited that Jon is raising money to buy a digital camera that takes black and white photos. ( It’s not the $15,000 Leica he was first thinking about getting, but a $3,000 Cannon) Because he’ll be seeing the world around him in a whole new way. And when Jon see’s something new, we all have the opportunity to see it with him, on his blog, in his photos and his writing.
You can read all about the camera Jon is raising money to buy and (if you choose to) how to contribute here. And soon you’ll be able to see and have (all Jon’s photos are free to download from his blog Bedlam Farm Journal) all those new black and white photos too.