I was visiting an ancient Japanese farmhouse, and there on the earth floor sat a very old, crippled lady gazing out the broken window, lumined in sunlight.
I was immediately attracted to photograph her. As I lifted my camera, she turned her face to me, and smiled. It was as if she knew how epiphanic she had appeared to me. And as if she had been sitting there in the sunlight waiting for me to come to behold her.
Was it I who had initiated this intimate moment, or she? And as I wondered – she smiled at me again. So knowingly.
Admire: to regard with wonder; esteem.
From the root SMEI, to smile. From which is derived our smile, smirk, marvel, miracle and mirror. And Miranda (the heroine of The Tempest): to be admired.
Every portrait subject, outwardly smiles or not, is smiling back at me. Every rock, every tree, every twig. For every Instance in my viewfinder I admire.
And, as Congreve wrote, “to admire, we should not understand.” He was referring to women, I to every photographic subject – everything in the viewfinder. Not to understand – that’s just the brain. But to feel admiration and wonder in the heart.
Every subject a miracle of Creation, every subject a Miranda.
It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter, because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the ordinary.
The photographer David Bailey
But to me, when I’m in photographic mood – that is to say, photographing as an action meditation – there is no ordinary. For then, everything I see is Extra-ordinary.
The photographer and the painter in a state of action meditation feels – is given to feel – not that he is doing it, but that it is being done through him. So surrendered is he. Even the breath entering and leaving him: not “I’m breathing,” but “I am being breathed.”
One of the ultimate tests of his work is that the viewer is given to feel likewise. That his ego too may become surrendered to the Spirit.