In Frame

As I write this our son is groaning and grunting in his battle to extract milk from mummy’s breast. He’s punching her boob with a flailing chubby fist like a student attempting to Jimmy a broken vending machine. His frustration and challenge mirrors ours, it’s been so trying

I haven’t reffered to my photograph taking manual tonight because its been such a long day and this evening I’m looking forward to relaxing with my wife and son.

It been quite a challenging month and a week for my wife in the sleep department so we’re trying a new schedule to hopefully be more efficient and snyc with the chubby one.

At work the following morning I refer to “100 Ways To Take Better Pbotographs” by Michael Busselle because not being consistent grates me. Chapter 5′ instruction is to use exposure compensation which in the chapter basically means taking the picture you want is about balancing the dark and the light in your shot.

Balance is something I feel we’ve been lacking with everything seemingly happening all at once. Having a schedule, a framework is already giving us the confidence to keep thing manageable dare I say enjoyable.

With picture taking its been no different. The many ways you can take one and all the jargon involved just felt like over complicating a process that’s already subject to so many variables. Remembering this new rule will help remind me that the infrastructure is there to help me take a good picture not hinder me.

I’ll be taking more pictures this weekend with invigorated zeal and optimism. Remembering to keep things within the frame of the lens will stop us both from spiralling out of control and remind us that we are capable and that we can confidently parent our way.

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A Shot With A View

Honestly speaking I didn’t think this through. I should have contacted Michael Busselle, author of “100 Ways To Take Better Photographs” and discussed a royalty pay out to yours truly, considering I’ve technically been plugging his book and will be plugging his book throughout my photographic adventure. Dollar aside, I love the book’s straightforward, anti-pseudo-intellectual approach of potent bullet pointed morsels of instruction.

The opening sentence reads; “It’s easy to think of the view finder as simply a means of aiming the camera, but it’s much more creative to think of it as the photographer’s ‘canvas’, a space to be filled in the most pleasing and striking way possible” . It’s Sunday morning and I haven’t slept all night, I’m running on coffee and inspiration. I spent all night writing and half an hour of the early morning attempting to unblock my partners milk duct. Oh the joys of breast feeding. I throw on some clothes and bundle our son into the pram to get him into the daylight and hopefully off to sleep to give mummy a reprieve and our ears some rest. It works and an hour later he’s snoozing in his pram in the lobby while I fan the glowing embers of a coffee high still in its infancy.

My wife says we’re meeting her cousin and her cousin’s partner and that today will be a relatively mellow one. While I am listening of course I am also simultaneously admiring her face and figure. It dawns on me that my bias as her ever-adoring husband is getting in the way of taking technically good photos. It isn’t enough for her to look stunning, although that is a given, but my regard for the rest of the canvas needs to be more acute.

The viewfinder was always a pointing mechanism for me, the whole point and shoot philosophy is hard to unlearn but this was always about slowing down to take notice of the surrounding area. My wife says I tidy up too thoroughly and her chaos is in fact organised chaos and she knows exactly where everything is. It’s a loving point of contention that is a source of mild frustration and hilarity. I want the visual canvas to be perfect, out of sight out of mind. There must surely be a correlation between organising ones own habitat before venturing into the world each morning. Jordan Peterson’ sage voice echoes in my mind “tidy your room”.

We meet her cousin Keith and his partner Kate and swap nappies and bears for trees, hills and sunshine. The importance of swapping settings is important for mental health, being stuck in all day is no good. After we fight ecah other for five minutes over who gets coffee, my wife wins and several lattes later we are sat at a poppy monument that’s catching the sun perfectly.

I tentatively aim my viewfinder with a little more purpose and fit everyone into a shot with a background that isn’t distracting but interesting. The tidy tendency wants to get a more organised background but like many beautiful things, life is messy. You don’t always get to choose what’s in the background but you do get to appreciate who is in the forefront.

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A Picture Of The Ideal

So I sold two massive bibles today, huge things, so huge they could be breeze blocks. As with all things that come into the shop, we google them for research and decide on a reasonable price which either ends up being half of the original price or one fourth of the original price, it all depends. The bibles fortunately or unfortunately, were seriously banged up, they had stories to tell, history etched into each scar and tear. The original price would have been easily £150 pounds or higher but our book specialist (who hilariously is an atheist to boot) said I was pushing my luck for pricing them at £20 each. A volunteer ended up selling both for £20 which was still pretty good going.

The bibles left a massive space where they used to sit on the book podium, so I searched around for a photography book to take centre stage. I live in a town populated by hipster students and they love a good camera and a good photography book so I was looking for bait. With no photography books in sight I put a hardback romance novel on the podium. Cleaning up the dust that the bibles left I got thinking about how long it had been since I physically opened my bible. A practising christian, I try not to publicise the fact, rather simply illustrate it in my living. We’re in an age where people don’t paticularily care who you say you are but rather what you do.

There are many wounds that christianity needs to heal. In the name of the church people have been abused, harmed, made to feel less than or simply not welcomed. Shutting the door on people is the last thing God wants. A place that should be open for all, has become an exclusive club, full of people comparing intimate personal journeys as if they’re competing a relay race. The pursuit of the ideal truly beleaugers all. I walked into the lobby and looked up our steep flight of stairs, crestfallen at the conclusion of my musings. I took out my phone and took a picture of the staircase. I named the shot “Stares” after our ability to stare at other people’s journeys with wonder when ours is set before us.

I thought about how we form the idea of ideals not from our own devices but from constructs and values inherited from our own families and friends, our cultures. The ideal picture is not actually a picture of the ideal, we’ve just been told that it is. Our pursuit for perfection propels us to portray a reality that isn’t actually real at all, making it difficult to anchor oneself with realistic expectations.

I thought about my funny mission to take one picture a day of my wife and child. It is a labour of love in my daily goal to be a good father and husband. I sat in bed going over my notes in bed thinking about how my christian walk had become less about reading the bible ten times and more about illustrating what’s in the pages with care and courage.

I laughed to myself when I remembered a time at work when I discovered a beautiful oil painting of Jesus christ going to the cross in the toilet downstairs. I affectionately named that toilet the “Toilet Gallery” because all of our pictures and frames go there since its the only place with the space for such an ensemble. The christ figure was practically glowing off of the canvas. His hair was straight and he looked like a european Gucci model. David Gandy eat your heart out.

The Jesus of the bible is so far removed from this , its hilarious. Isaiah an old testament prophet describes him; “It was the will of the LORD that his servant grow like a plant taking root in dry ground. He had no dignity or beauty to make us take notice of him. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing that would draw us to him.” . Couple that with the fact the ancient Hebrew people had a clear picture of their ideal messiah. He would be cut from the same clothe as warrior King David of old and be solely about the liberation of Israel from the boot of the Romans. What they got was someone more in line with a roaming prophet with ambitions to liberate the rest of the world, not just Israel. Liberation from one great spiritual enemy that had its boot on the neck of humanity, sin. Needless to say, it didn’t go down well with officials of the day.

In christianity Jesus is the ideal, unassuming and humble in all the ways we miss out in multimedia. The Servent-King, the template for the ideal man; power and strength tempered with service and humility. I think about this as I walk home and reflect on my definition of the new man and how that doesn’t always line up with the picture of the ideal man for all seasons that is less Thomas Moore and more give me more.

I open Instagram and attempt a selfie and save it on the first go. While I am what many would call handsome, the spirit surging within me anchors me more. I am not really self obsessed, although admittedly I am in my own head a bit too much at times. I have had the benefit of family and friends nurturing the words that come out of me as opposed to what I look like. It’s why my poetry has been such a big part of my life, my rudder even. So I could be forgiven for presuming the new found community on Instagram was solely hyper interactive.

In classic mythology Narcissus attracts the wrath of nemesis and is made to fall in love with his own reflection after rejecting admirer Echo who wastes away into a feedback loop of despair. It’s surely the cautionary tale of our time in a world locked in the jaws of solipsism.

While Instagram is a fantastic app (heck I met my wife on it), it isn’t without its less charming Features. It has become, for many, a breeding ground of rampant ego and vanity. Keeping up with the Jones’s has never been more poisonous, inspiring a vapid culture in the ultra curated world and only those aware of the mirror’s glare salvage a true sense and picture of their actual selves. I worry that it has become a lightening rod of narcissism for a generation more than any other app that comes to mind.

And yet, there is hope. Hope that if we focus on the intangible elements of the ideal beauty we try to display physically so often, we may blossom into more than we currently are. Instagram was a means to an end for my wife and I when we were long distance dating. We video called and chatted but it required us to leave behind all that we had posted online in favour of the vulnerable beautiful flawed people we were (and still are), scars and stars alike. When we finally met in person it was like the convergence of the planets themselves! Face to face, we were at home with each other, in love not with an ideal but with the real deal and it has made all the difference.

I think the Apostle Paul puts it best ; For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

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