Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Victim of One's Own Passion, Part One

People tend to attribute a hierarchy to things. This just seems to be human nature. It seems logical, then, that people who are interested in the arts have their own preferences. I had a friend once who argued that poetry, film, and math were the highest art forms. As a poet, I won’t disagree with this assertion. I am nuts about text (poetry, fiction, and non). I also have a strange fixation on the NY Times – yes, that’s me dashing out naked in the snow to get my blue bag! But, I have also always been drawn to the visual arts. I love painting, film, and instillation art. However, above all, photography is the thing for me!

What is so special about photography? I love people. I love looking into their lives, seeing the bizarre quality of human nature, and comparing to my own. Whether set up or spontaneous, photography is always very real and immediate in a way that other arts aren’t. Of course, photographs can be skewed and manipulated by their taker, but I’m usually able to suspend my disbelief. Photographs show how beautiful and ugly and complex the world is. In short, they define pathos.

Last Saturday, I had my own pathos when my four-year-old son had a nervous breakdown in Union Square. The details are superfluous. Let me just say it turned in to hell on the streets of Manhattan. At one particularly low moment, I was sitting on the ledge outside COSI with my head (literally) in my hands. The boy lay on the sidewalk kicking and screaming. It was quite an image. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who thought this. A young photographer (most likely a NYU student) stopped and snapped away. Gone is the anticipation of developing a roll of film, the darkroom, and a contact sheet. She had a digital, and she viewed the photos with pleasure as her and her boyfriend walked away. Now there’s an “A” in critique! I was left feeling curious, duped, hysterical, laughing, and, well, a victim of ALL my passions.

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