Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Why I like photography
Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity. -- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
I love to write, but writing has always been hard for me., and I made this drawing years ago to vent my frustration. I used to think my difficulty arose because I learned English as a second language as a child, and that some deep inner key to the language remained forever hidden. But that was a copout. Writing is difficult for everyone. What was it that Red Smith once said? "Writing is easy -- all you have to do is just open your veins and bleed."
Flaubert's famous quote focuses less on the agony of the individual writer than on the total inadequacy of something as insubstantial as words to express human experience. What's really remarkable is that, despite all the limitations of written and spoken words, we try to communicate with them at all.
Fortunately, spoken and written language is not the only way to communicate. We have eyes to see, and fingers to point, and humans were saying "Hey! Look at this!" long before the words existed. That's part of what the prehistoric cave paintings were all about, and the impulse has never gone away. The only difference is that today we point with cameras.
That's why I like photography. Sometimes pointing is the only way to say what I want to say.