Have you ever noticed that there is never any text accompanying an art photograph? Apparently it’s bad taste in the world of art. Well, friends, I am preparing to break the rules. There is one very good reason (in my mind) to occasionally add words: The photo has meaning to me and I want it to have meaning to the viewer.
Here is an example. We had traveled all day on dusty roads south of Lhasa, Tibet, when our driver suddenly turned down a path to a distant farmstead. He was related somehow to this lady and felt that she would not mind if he brought a pair of Americans to see a Tibetan home and farm in the hills. She was, in a word: Gracious. She welcomed us into her meager home and then served us tea under a shade tree. We had a few Chinese words but no Tibetan. No problem; we communicated quite well. So…why does this photo have meaning to me? Easy answer — although you might find it naive: In the space of one hour we grew to love her. And I think it went both ways. I can still feel a unique kind of love when I see that weathered face, the simple ear ring, the worn but clean hat, and the flowers she arranged in a can to make us welcome. And that soft, musical voice. There is absolutely no question in my mind that a simple portrait of an old lady conveys meaning.
This is the stave church at Urnes. It was built in the 12th century near the eastern end of the Sognefjord in Norway. We really wanted to visit the church but our visit took us to Norway in late September — a few weeks after the church was closed for the season. Enter Pål F. Dyvik. Pål and I met through an online travel group. When I mentioned that we would miss the church at Urnes by a few weeks he made some calls and arranged for the church to be opened for us. Additionally, Pål took days off from work, met us at our B & B in Bergan, and traveled with us for three days around the fjords of Norway — often taking us to places the casual tourist would never locate. What do I see when I look at this image? I see friendship. I see generosity. And I see a sadness because I have lost contact with Pål after seventeen years.
These are technically pretty good images and I’m proud of them. But, more importantly, they are intimate, meaningful photos. There is something of me in them and there is something of the Tibetan woman and Pål F. Dyvik in them. I keep them and dozens more as icon/thumbnails on my desktop where a simple double click opens memories.