Sometimes, I look through my photographs and the world seems impossibly quiet and empty, even if other people are there, and even if other people are nearby. I've had a hard time justifying the process of photographing and sharing images, as if those sights are not mine to divulge, and that the world does not need more pictures. Other times, I cannot justify withholding pictures, because it is not my place to decide what should or should not exist.

There are people there, in all of my photographs. They're the ones you can't see, who stand behind or beside me, who I sometimes cannot bear to frame. They're the ones I don't find neccesary to photograph at that time, or ever again. They're the ones who forget that I am there, or don't notice that I'm capturing the trace of photons traveling across the void, or watch me with no chance at comprehension. They're all there, don't worry. Every photograph I take contains every human who has ever passed through my life.

I walked home yesterday and saw a beat-up old car parked illegally against the curb, and passed it to see a woman prostrating to the east. In the grass beside her, a red-tailed hawk stands over a torn squirrel. I turned and photographed the shadows cast by the setting sun in the opposite direction. Years ago, I was trapped under a bridge by a pouring summer thunderstorm, pulling my camera out of its waterlogged case to try and protect it. A taxi driver pulled in next to me and wordlessly got out to spread his prayer rug on the driest spot. I faced the curtain of rain that held us together and waited.

I stare at scenes that are too heartbreaking to ignore, and refuse to allow myself the instant gratification of filing it away in a device that saves the visuals and defers emotional engagement. I deny myself the satisfaction of catching the light at its most perfect because I've convinced myself that pleasure-denial will grant me the right to demand pleasure later. Is this useful, I ask myself. Does anyone want this, I consider. Is this good, I demand. The world exists whether or not it gets photographed; the world exists whether or not I photograph; the world exists whether or not I exist.

My family often complains that I never appear in the photographs I take of friends, family, adventures, travels, and I say, how can I not be? I'm there, in the shadows I cast when the light hits my body and cannot pass through. I'm there, in the only place I could have possibly stood to make the image. I'm there, showing you evidence that I was there. I'm there, in the vision you see when you look at the rest of the image. I'm the most present in every image, because it is the closest I can get to placing you directly within my skull and showing you what the world looks like when I open my eyes.

These are my pictures, but they are not my pictures.

05 November 2015

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