Friday, May 25, 2007


Here's the view from our balcony in Cuba. Bear in mind we paid more money than we could really afford to attend our friends' beachfront nuptials, a getaway we imagine to be our last for some time. Ready?

Nice, eh?

Here's the view from the newlyweds' balcony. Hope you're not afraid of heights:

In fact, the whitish blur on the point is, in fact, the newlyweds, newly wed. The striding figure is the photographer: they always move with such purpose, don't you think?

Anyhow. We had a crappy room with a crappy view. But sometimes you find something worth looking at in the unlikeliest of places.

Not here, though:

That's the 'art' above our bed. Amazingly, we managed to get to sleep despite this assault on good taste. No, I'm thinking more of stuff like this:

It's not really all about my feet. I think this is a post about perspective, about the benefits of mixing it up. This photo is of a road paved in wood blocks: the homeowner who did the paving really detested the sound of horses galumping over cobblestones of a morning, a time of day said homeowner much preferred to be asleep. How funny! And what a novel solution to an end I can really get behind: more sleep, and quieter! When we show our pictures, everyone always asks me about this. I tell them the story, and I know I will remember it now. Will marvel.

Sometimes the wide angle offers a panorama worthy of contemplation:

The diagonal can emphasize distance, give a sense of sweep and scale; connote motion or direction.

Or a grander field of view can suggest unlikely juxtapositions; here it's decay and care.

Too much distance, though, and you wind up with a series of postcards. To make it your own, move in closer:

What matters is the look of joy, of relaxation, of well-restedness and couplehood that you can see on our faces. Beach be damned--it's not the story here.

Here is a detail from the ceiling of the Capitol building in Havana--now the building serves purely a museum function, but the level of attention to detail, the artistry and the fussiness, is just incredible.

This is one carved panel from one of many many doors in the Capitol building. It might be too small here, but try to note that the figure on the far right has had his name removed and his likeness scratched from the panel. Why? These are all historical political figures in Cuba, including, presumably, the blanked-out figure. This is historical revisionism before Photoshop, I guess.

You probably don't know I took a lot of fine arts photography studios in university, that I've shown prints in shows, or shot more than one wedding. Or that I occasionally teach photography. And the first thing I teach is perspective: look at it differently, I implore my students, look at it to find a meaning or to make one.

Isn't life like that too? Best contemplated, by turns, from a greater distance to give depth, and from a nearer one for detail? To have long range goals is to lend purpose, a narrative arc, a context for the mass of details; to focus on the telling detail is to remain aware that, really, deatils are all there are, and that they matter. Most deadly is that middle shot, encompassing neither broad sweep nor telling detail, a knees-to-ceiling framing that is unsure of its focus.

Lately, I've been trying to think of my life from the wide-angled and from the closeup views. Where do I want to be in twenty years and how do I get there? How does my life in the everyday living of it it bring me joy or reflect my authentic self, right now? I'm trying to get away from the middle shot, a contemplation of life from one set of bill payments to the next, one weekly rotation to another. This is not where the richness is: it's in the big picture, and in the small one.

All I ever needed to know, I learned from photography? Chicken soup for the photographer's soul? Or a cheap post built from photos that otherwise very few people will see?


Omaha Mama said...

I'm not sure that this was your point, but I just LOVE taking pictures. And looking at pictures. And looking at other people's pictures. Digital photography and all that it has to offer has changed my life (and given me a fun hobby). Great pictures can even change your memories of a so-so event into a much more romanticized version of what happened. I like it from that perspective. Great post.

Mad Hatter said...

Either way it's a rhetorical delight. And the pics are fine to behold as well.

Beck said...

What my husband remembers most from his visits to Cuba are the cockroaches. I'm glad you didn't photograph any of those, because they give me the willies.
And seriously, that looks like a lovely trip.

Oh, The Joys said...

Thanks for this post. I"m stuck in the rut of the mundane, so I needed it.

NotSoSage said...

Okay, not the point, but LOOOVE the shoes. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest so that I could focus on the post itself.

Lovely. And I have always wanted to learn more about's one of my plans for hitting 65 and getting free post-secondary education.

Denguy said...

You and cinnamon gurl and your pictures, so fab.

I try to take nice shots, but they're never what I want. More practice, I guess. More practice.

Alpha DogMa said...

What exactly was the view out your window? Roof? Drive way? And yeah, that is some bad art. Horrible really. Great snaps otherwise. Especially the one of you and Mister Mimi.

Em said...

Thank you so much for sharing :)

cinnamon gurl said...

I'm with Sage: stuck on the shoes! They're gorgeous!

I think I could probably gain from taking a wider angle view at our lives. For the last few/several years, I have been trying to live more in the moment, to really be present, and blogging has helped that in leaps and bounds. I love details. But I love the idea of providing a narrative arc.

I love the pics of you and Pynchon, the curving roof, and the decaying building against the spanky old car. My sister lived in Cuba for 3 years and I didn't get my sorry ass down there to visit her. Wah!

Jenifer said...

The sandals are nice (look like a comfy pair for walking), I just bought a new pair after finally retiring a beloved pair of Aerosoles.

Photos are lovely they offer a glimspe into someone that words cannot give you.

I like the idea of perspective too. It is important to take a step back and a step closer once in a while.

Bon said...

i love the photos, and the perspective that came with them.

the shoes were pretty cool too.

but my favourite...the capitol. i want that view from my bed. must talk to Dave about a roof reno...

nomotherearth said...

It's so hard to live in the moment, and yet still work on the big picture. It's the daily quandary that I face.

I like looking at the pictures - it feels like I've had a mini-vacation. I could really use it!