Redefining Revolutionary

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I find myself going off in directions I hadn’t anticipated. One of the great things about this blog is that I get to put these ideas somewhere. I do the same thing with them that I do with the moments I photograph. By recording the twists and turns of my thoughts, I give them substance and value. I get to work out my ideas on “paper”, instead of bending my kids ears or emailing back and forth with friends while ironing out my thoughts on a certain topic.  I did that this morning, but rather than wear out my friendships, I thought I’d move that conversation over to this forum.

I read the following article this morning: Never Underestimate the Power of Your Camera. The author begins with the statement, “Every time you pick up your camera, you have the potential to perform a revolutionary act”. I was hooked. I’m not sure that the author thinks of revolutionary in the same vein as I do, but I stand firmly with him. I would even go further and say that every time I do anything, I have the potential to perform a revolutionary act – to actually live in a revolutionary way every moment of every day. I don’t believe that we live in a culture that supports living radically. We live in a culture that idolizes and idealizes the rugged individual, but in which it is a fearsome thing to challenge and change the status quo. Ok, now I don’t want to sound preachy, so what does that look like in my world?  Can I be a revolutionary stay-at-home mom, moonlighting as a photographer/writer, and make it in this world? I like to think so. Can I be 48 years old, just stepping out of 20 years of child-rearing and housework into the big bad world, with my camera and pen in hand, and expect not to get laughed off the streets? Does anyone want to know what my vision is? Does anyone want to hear my voice? Those are serious, and scary questions. Yes, is a revolutionary answer. I want to point that camera lens back into my life and share its value, but not idealize it and make it look like something that its not. I also want to point it out at the world from inside that experience. My journey through parenting and caring for my family has shaped my vision and my voice, and I like to think that by sharing what I see and think, I create a connection with people who may think or see things along the same lines as I do but either haven’t had the support, energy or courage to share it and believe that it is of value. I believe that each one of us has a unique perspective and each perspective is valuable. I like what I read in the above article, which is challenging and controversial in that it demands of photography that it be an “act of defiance against banality and conformity”. I like to think that each day that I wake up determined to choose my own path, rather than an easy one that was laid out for me by someone else, is an act of defiance. From talking to other women in my peer group, I know that its not unusual for stay-at-home moms to feel that their voices aren’t heard, and that they don’t have a lot of value. This creates a kinship, like I was thinking and writing about yesterday, with other groups who feel marginalized. In the last several years, as the demands of my family have started to diminish, I’ve had the opportunity to be among certain groups with my camera where this feeling of marginalization is also familiar. No one is ever going to pick me out in a group as a marginalized person, but I can relate to that experience as a stay-at-home mom. Writing these words, I cringe, and I almost don’t want anyone to read them, because who would ever say that an educated, white, upper middle class woman in a city in the USA is marginalized. But, I’m being radical,  and I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that in my experience, for most of the last 20 years, I felt more powerless than empowered. That’s changing, but only through the revolutionary act of laying claim to my vision and my voice.

All that said, its a radical notion to think that I can launch myself from this place, and make a difference in the world by sharing my vision and my voice. But I think I can, so every day when I pick up my camera, I try to see the world with clear eyes, unencumbered by fear and uncertainty. Maybe its only by catching the glow of sunlight as it makes a halo of a child’s hair, but paying attention to that detail, noting it, and sharing it makes it special, and that is radical. If you read the above article, you may scratch your head and wonder why I would choose it to share here. I am not sure that the author would think my photographs revolutionary, but when I pull my camera out of my pack, I do so with the intention of performing a revolutionary act. I took my camera to my son’s soccer game on this cold rainy Saturday morning.  I knew it would be easier to not try to shoot any photos, to leave it at home. Did anyone really care if I shot those photos? But I recognized that kind of thought. Its a challenge to banish it. So I grabbed a cup of coffee and a plastic bag to protect my lens, and drove to the field. After half-time, with the score 0-0, I decided to walk behind the goal and shoot through the net, thinking that that might create an interesting effect. I never watch soccer games from that angle, and standing behind the keeper gives a very different perspective.  The game ended with a 1-0 victory. I was back there and caught this through the net when the shot went in.

The Winning Shot

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