From Waist Height and Wondering 1.
We had to flip it.
I mean we had to. I was angry and crying and Linus in his wisdom said, “flip it, trail blazer it, go deeper into it. If that’s what’s there then just flow with it.”
I suppose you want the whole story…or an explantation at least.
I was taking Susannah Conway’s Photo Meditations course (I loved it, I love it still. Go to the next one, it’s amazing).
There were assignments and being the bluestocking I am, I wanted to do well. Not for marks, not for praise, but for myself, to honour the opportunity, the time and energy I was putting into the course, to respect the teaching and the community.
Shooting and sharing weekly snaps. I was stunned and humbled by the pool of talent I was witnessing, the inspirations it invoked in me. The resistance and self deprecation it drew up from me.
Some students were professional photographers, lots had professional cameras.
It was suitable for anyone, you could do it with a disposable camera, with your old point and click if you needed to. It wasn’t about the equipment.
There were discussions of cameras, comparisons and explanations. Of which one you used as your ‘big girl camera’ – cue gasp from me. Me without a big girl camera. Inadequacy jumped up for me. My camera is my phone (calm down, not an iPhone, a dear little android with vignette app). Realistically, the people discussing equipment were the ones who had equipment to discuss.
But it took me a while to see that.
People had gorgeous, extravagant photographs. Of American landmarks, of glories. I had the weeds in my garden. You might say the essence of a good photographer is to be able to create good shots anywhere. You would be right.
But it took me a while to see that.
I didn’t have the energy to go out looking for fabulous shots. I don’t go out often enough to come across them by frequent accident.
One afternoon I saw an amazing shot in the fields. Over a stile. Stiles are not wheelchair accessible. I couldn’t make the shot.
Dusk in the garden. Curating a shot of the tea towels drying on the line.
diagonal dolly pegs,
horizontal line, cutting through
sun-shot horizon in the background.
Soft old irish linen in the wind.
I couldn’t stand to get it, the camera won’t zoom close enough.
So I was upset. I only have a tiny camera, I can only photograph the same things as- exciting and lovely as my life is – it is still mostly spent in the same few rooms with the same few people doing similar things. I can’t always reach the shots I can see.
The course taught me to look with a photographers eye and see new beauty.
“Grace, why don’t you just flip it? Make a virtue out of it. So what that all our money goes on food and health stuff and we just don’t have any spare for a camera right now? Celebrate that. This is our real life. This is true and deep and wholly you.”
Focus on what you can. Find the beauty in our everyday. Discover all the secret shots in these few rooms. Catalogue, record, preserve, honour our unfolding, healing lives.
I have long recorded. Maybe it’s the historian in me. Maybe it’s my shadow life. The Grace who didn’t get ill and who is now teaching medieval history, making strides in women’s historical research, reigniting La Querelle des Femmes for the 21st century and winning. Working in the archives. Shadow lives can leak through.
We photographed and recorded my healing journey, especially when the memory loss got too bad. It anchored me in an amorphous world. And I record still. Snatching light, capturing moments, amber in my hard drive, amulets against a memory which could falter again. Please let me remember.
For January while I prepare for the launch of Healing Boxes, while I write my book proposal, this is what I am giving you:
Perspectives from my wheelchair, the half world in my view. Unedited and adored. A life, a heart, prayed for, tear soaked and beating.
A photograph a day. A fragment of my world offered here. A heart-song.
From waist height and wondering. What discoveries lie under the surface and under the skin of the habitual? Making art from, bringing sacredness to, the profane of our days and nights. Initiation through the lens.
May you receive what you came here to find.
Love and veritas,
* Grace * xxxxx