Still Life

Like everyone I know with a high-resolution, smart phone camera, I’m taking pictures. I’ve always taken them –  I have two bookcases full of fat, metal-ringed bound albums covering the first half of my life, especially when my daughters were young.

But now, like everyone else, most of the shots I take live in my iPhoto app or on Facebook or as blog images. But that’s where I am these days so, oddly, even though my photographs are mere shadows and light on my electronic devices, I’m actually spending more time with them than ever before. I’m inspecting them at closer range. And I’m seeing how the good ones – not necessarily the pretty ones but the ones that I tend to linger on, contain so much story. Stories that appear bent on telling themselves. They simply come to the surface, effortlessly.

Something makes me want to still the moment, but the moment ends up showing itself in a surprising way. It’s a reminder to me that to be human is to have that desire to tell, capture, to facilitate story telling.

Some images to help make my point:

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Photo by Ellen Blum Barish

So on one of those glorious late afternoons last week, spring actually showing itself as pure spring, I wandered into my backyard toward my very aging shed. It’s in dire need of a new roof, some window adjustments and paint. As I drew in closer, I noted the double window image. That cool way you can look through one window into another for two distinct views. Looking in and out at the same time. I pulled out my iphone, which, these days, is always at hand, and snapped that moment. It wasn’t until I sent it to my iPhoto folder and looked at it later that night that I saw the my reflection in the glass. Not just two views, but three.


photo copy 4

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish

And just yesterday – one of the wilder weather patterns whipped through Chicago. Temperatures in the upper 70s, high humidity moved into a strong rain, the kind that wets you down in the 10 seconds it took you to get to your car and then stopped after 20 minutes. The temps stayed high, the sun came out and it the cycle repeated once again. I was driving west, into all of this, to take my daughter to a doctor appointment. Thirty minutes later, the clouds went all cottony and that arch of color appeared in the sky and out came my iphone (yes while on the road but only when I came to a full stop!). The rainbow took its bow, after its atmospheric drama.

Like the adage, it does appear to be true, that a picture can do so much …  saying. But I just love the surprises that can come when we trust the telling.