Everything stops cold in summer. The flow of life seems to lazily drift to a halt, like a boat that runs out of gas. I find it frustrating. It takes twice the effort to get anything done in this season because we push against an invisible force of resistance. Except for the Jersey Shore I've always felt that summer is way overrated. Once it begins I start to count the days until golden light of autumn.
Feeling disconcerted, I went for a summer walk the other day with my camera. I didn't get out early enough so I was met by the flat, glaring light of an approaching midday. Nothing is worse for my creative spark that bright, boring light. However, every kind of light can have its photographic appeal so I stayed with my walk and looked for anything that might interest my lens.
What I found were lots of bars. Not the drinking kind—I'm referring to the metal bars that one would find in a jail or guardrail. The unforgiving light seemed to make them interesting so I photographed all I could find. It turns out that there are lots of bars in a suburban town, many more than one might think. I ended up with a hundred images of them.
Back in the studio and away from summer's glare, I looked at the resulting photos with a certain curiosity. I cocked my head the way my cat does when she sees a finch in the birdbath. My heart sank as I looked at the boring images of metal rails and bars. What was I thinking and why had I photographed these homely objects? I winced. My neck started to hurt so I straightened it. I then tried to find a good image among the lot. At first pass there were none. So, I gave up.
It turns out they were there, but it took me until the next day to notice them. With the retrospect of a good-night's sleep, the photos started to make sense. They seemed to represent the state of mind that I was feeling the day before. I'd been feeling caged-in and frustrated by commitments that were draining me of my creative energy. This only became clear after the mood had passed—a mood that now seemed silly and transitory. But it was a mood that passed more quickly thanks to a walk with a camera.
Everything is temporary, including grumpy moods, mid-summer light, and boxed-in emotions. Nothing lasts all that long. The value of keeping a photographic diary is to witness these things come and go, like the tide of the Jersey Shore on a hot summer's day.