Today I went to the Getty with Paco to take in the Cuba photography exhibit. I really enjoy going with him to these types of things because he, himself, is a photographer and we share similar tastes in art and photography. The exhibit itself was amazing. I was moved by the compositions, the stories and the faces of the people captured in time. There was a series of particular photos of coal workers dated 1933. Their faces blacked by the soot, masking their ethnicities and most of their facial features. Their eyes glowed behind the black canvas of soot, and in them you could almost hear their stories from 1933.
Paco walked over to me and pointed out that the photographer had cropped the photo in a certain way so that some of the coal miners head's were not visible. "Why do you think he did that?" Paco asked me. I started at the photo some more ....
Why did he do that?
Had he not pointed it out, I suppose I would have been lost in the coal worker's eyes. But there was a lot more to the photo than what had captured me. There was a lot more to the question Paco asked me. There was also a lot more to the photographer's intent than what we, or I, was capturing.
How beautiful, the mind of a visionary. To be able to capture these images, freeze emotions and stories and souls that fill up the pupils of the subject's eyes in time. To be able to take in the image, inch by inch, break it apart and ask simple questions that create complex answers.
Why did he do that?
For the remainder of the trip I looked at each image and asked myself "Why did he do that?" I saw the images in a completely different light.
Once outside, Paco and I began taking photos of the garden and the scenery with our cell phones. We weren't looking to capture anything as great as what we had seen inside the museum, but the shapes and colors of the environment were great to capture as a memento. At one point, Paco showed me a photo he took of the stairway above us, a curved structure tiled in white stone. It was a great shot. I was a bit amazed that he was able to capture that on a cell phone. On our way to our car, he stopped and snapped another photo of an space between the parking lot and a hill. It was an empty space, what could he be taking a picture of? He showed me and again, it was a great shot. Before what were just bland concrete slabs were lines of a majestic structure in a beautiful balance with light and shadows.
How beautiful, I thought, to have visions. To be able to look at something like an empty space and immediately see the composition of a great photograph. To be able to take walk through a common street in Cuba and see art in the street vendors and coal worker.
To be able to take something that anyone can pass by day in and day out, take no real importance to, and turn it into an image that embodies art, light, history, emotion and everything that is beautiful about life.
How beautiful it is to see something for what it could be.