I have some memories that are burned into my mind like so much scar tissue, tattoos that never fade. I have many photos of so many beautiful moments of peace and of drama – sunsets under heavy skies, couples embraced at the end of the pier, towering monoliths and foggy graves. I find it strange that the two instances never meet.
Looking through some of my pictures from last year, and even a few from this year, I struggled to remember or to feel whatever emotion that had gripped me when I stopped and pressed the shutter. I look at a sunset and I cannot remember what I felt looking at that sunset. I see the couple and I can guess at what I felt, but I cannot be sure. Yet I know exactly how I felt when I stood between her legs as she sat perched on a wall. I remember marching through Scotland with a lonely man and a stomach full of whiskey. I can’t remember how I felt as I caught the face of a giant in the clouds, or watching a father and son venture carefully down a slip road towards a raging tide that would eventually hurl stones the size of cars and tear up iron railings as though long grass. I remember shrugging when I scored my first ever goal at school. I remember the wish I made when I threw a coin into a sacred well, fingering the Celtic necklace that I would throw off a cliff the same day only to find on a deserted beach five days later.
It concerns me sometimes; living a life through the lens, because I never want to become completely desensitised for the sake of some arty bullshit. I’ve always tried to capture moments, whether in writing or now in pictures. When I look at my earlier shots, there’s a wonderful naivete. Some of my later, recent shots have been the painfully earnest example of someone trying to be art for art’s sake. That’s not the point. If there’s no emotion involved it is as worthless as half a wank.
I should remember what it is like to stand in front of a sunset without the itch to capture it. Allow thoughts and feelings to wash over and sink in. Or else become a bland robot, obsessively fiddling with contrast and brightness settings to get a particular shadow just so. One of those who want to know only about shutter speeds and ISO settings, rather than what made the photographer lift up their camera to their eye in the first place.
Driving home this evening, a few minutes before dusk, I listened to the soundtrack from Amelie. The song Comptine D’un Autre Ete: L’apres Midi was playing softly through my stereo. I looked to my right; the winter sun hid behind a line of trees. As I drove by, the light flickered between the trunks strobing me in golden light, keeping in time, it seemed, to the balletic, tumbling high notes of the piano. I will always think of that moment when I hear that song. Perhaps there are some things not meant to be captured.