Light and Shadow
I once wrote, “If you deny the shadow in life, you are only living one-half of your life.” I find photography or any art medium subject to this same insight. The play of light and shadow, their discourse so to speak, is critical to communicating thought, emotion, and/or story. In the book ‘Reverence’, Paul Woodruff wrote, “We know where light is coming from by looking at the shadows.”
What is prompting the shadows in our personal, spiritual, social/political, and physical lives? And, then we may ask, where is the light coming from? Light is always there, but from what source? Are shadow and light on speaking terms? I believe that the photographic magic of masters like Adams, Cunningham, Brandt, and Weston was found in how they made sure that light and shadow played well together.
Today the dark times of our economic, social, spiritual, and political lives may not in be any direr than other times in history. However, one must ask is the play of light and shadow working well? Polarizations are separating communities in strained and sometimes dangerous ways. With these thoughts in mind, is this a time in which photographers and other artists could take advantage of how the light and shadow life today can be visualized?
For example, a new photograph of mine would communicate clearly a growing fear of how light (in the form of hopefulness) is being suppressed by shadowy ideologies? Is there a subject, approach, or style that would communicate this growing sense of fear? What kind and level of light would come through if any and, from what source?
I know one thing for sure, the photograph (if successful) would share a deep foreboding. The shadows, more than likely, would dominate. And, they would capture how I sometimes feel lately, overpowered and lost as to what one can do to bring more light into being.
On the other hand, I might take the path of this adage, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” With this more positive outlook the photograph would have light clearly prevalent and even diffusing the blacks and shadows.
One of the reasons I so like doing what is called light painting is that I practice bringing light into a completely dark situation. I feel the responsibility of applying just the right amount of light in manifesting at least one positive aspect or character of the subject. To at least bring enough and the right kind of light into illumination even though the negative space darkness persists.
On a personal level, what frames your life? Is it a frame of fear and foreboding? Or, is it held by a frame of some position or way of being in life? Can it be filled with just the right amount of light to illuminate one’s most noble self? What kind of frame holds your life and can it be changed to allow the best light in?