Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.  Elie Wiesel


Creating an image is easy – just point and shoot, paint or write.  But will such an image speak to others?  Will it speak to or for us? Unless we see the meaning in our images, then they can neither speak for us or to us.  We must see a meaning before we create the image or it becomes pixels on a page.

What does this image mean to me?  I have no idea of the relationship between the couple – are they married? Neighbours? Siblings or cousins? Old friends?  I don’t know.  Are they talking deeply about philosophy or chatting about the effect of the weather on their yaks? Again, I don’t know.

Therefore I have to create the meaning for myself.  What attracted me enough about this couple to take the photo?  The intensity of their conversation.  Clearly these are not strangers, circling each other to find common ground.  Their body language speaks of a closer relationship.  For me they seem to have created a space around themselves to have this discussion. Whatever the conversation, it has an importance to them.  And so, I feel the importance of this exchange, even if I do not understand it.  I can relate to it in remembering similar conversations I have had.  So – we have a connection of sorts.

The weathered faces also speak to me of a difficult life, endured and survived.  My life has not been as physically difficult as theirs, but I can relate to parts of their lives, from my childhood, from being a parent, from surviving my own difficulties. Again, I can see connections between their lives and mine.

When they see me with my camera, do they see connections between us?  Probably not.  They see a stranger, someone from a  world unlike theirs.  But if we were to sit and talk, we could establish those connections. We could establish common ground over family, over food, over difficulties we have met and managed.

But for now, to give my image meaning, I have to imagine those connections, create them, give this couple a story that may or may not be true.  If I can create the image effectively I may be able to pass my connections and understandings on to those who look at this image.  Will they see the human connections between themselves and this couple?  How can I create meaning for others from this image?  How can I make the human linkages clear?  If I can create meaning in this image, then I have managed to move my images from the passive and indifferent, to the meaningful and connected.

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