the intimacy of photography


I started writing at this site about 15-1/2 years ago, but about 13 years ago when Alex was about 2 years old, for a time I switched to solely photoblogging. I’d been blogging almost exclusively about being a new parent up to that time, and it was starting to nag at me that perhaps I should guard my daughter’s privacy a little more closely; also, this was when our family was living in Trinidad, a place that was rich with photo opportunities to fuel my photography passion. Remember, this was before Instagram was even a glimmer in its founders’ eyes; photo sharing wasn’t particularly widespread, and in fact, “photoblogging” was something only nerdy photographers (like me) did. So to practice my photography, I switched. For a while, I didn’t even write captions to the images — every day I’d simply publish a photograph I’d taken that day — it could be as exotic as an image from a vacation to a neighbouring island, or as simple as a cup of tea. There was a comment section, and people often left comments, but the interpretation of the images was left solely to the viewers.

It was about that time that I was at a party at my parents’ place in Trinidad, and I was being introduced to one of their friends. My mom’s best friend was there, and she interjected, “Karen shares the most intimate aspects of her life on the internet.”

I was a bit shocked — it’s not like I shared salacious details of my family’s life, and I often didn’t say anything on my site at all! But then I started to realize: photography can be an incredibly intimate thing. Photographs invite the viewer to stand alongside the photographer, and see what she sees — and maybe even see a few things the photographer doesn’t see. A simple photograph of the photographer’s feet — such a common shot — also reveals the half-drunk mug of tea. The well-worn carpet. The scar on the photographer’s ankle.

Photographs hint at untold stories.

I’ve mentioned before that since the hurricane, I haven’t really had the inclination to pick up my big Nikon camera and shoot. At first, I thought it was simply because I didn’t want to take pictures of something as painful as losing everything. Then I thought it was because the apartment we stayed in while rebuilding felt so uninspiring. Then, I thought it was because I’d lost a couple of lenses to the flood, and shooting with what remained would just be frustrating. But I think I’ve actually, finally, figured out what it is:

Hurricane Harvey left me with a huge vulnerability hangover (as my friend Brené would say). Shooting and sharing, especially the mundane of my life, felt way too intimate.

But … finally … I’m starting to feel the itch to shoot again. But shoot in the way I used to, not simply selfies with the cameraphone. For this reason, Instagram doesn’t feel like the right place to share those images. So I’m going to start sharing images more here at Chookooloonks — with captions sometimes, but maybe even without, like I used to. Some of the shots may be great, some may be pedestrian — like my feet in bright red clogs.

But maybe you’ll see what I see, and a few things I don’t.

Soundtrack: Let’s runaway by Dido