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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Photography, Mary, and Nelson Mandela

 Photograph by Ansel Adams

I was walking to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee, when it dawned on me that December 8th, today, was The Feast Of The Immaculate Conception in the RC Church. I stumbled a bit, some things ran through my brain, then I recovered.

As I stood making the coffee - I use a Melitta filter system, making each cup individually - I took the Holy Day and transformed it into something-something-something about photography, so an image of Mary, mother of Jesus, took the form of one of Ansel Adams mountain shots.

Then it dawned on me how odd it is that we trap the light, and try to force it into an unchanging matrix of a photograph. We try to imprison it.
Yet life would always burst the bounds of our improvised jails, would it not?

Holy days can be routine, or maybe they can be innovative, but what is there in dogma to inspire us? The intricacies of the teaching on the Immaculate Conception have always mystified me, for they gave me the impression of a Newtonian divinity, which operated according to a law of thermodynamics in which original sin was the entropy of chaos.

Then I thought that maybe that is why Hitler esteemed films are the most potent weapons of propaganda: that film could lock up a lie into a golden prison and go about showing it off to all and sundry.
Photography in a sense is a lie, for it gives us the sense of duration where there is none. We think to encapsulate those times we think we wish to remember, and then we post them away into albums, or scan them into digital panopticons...

(By now you are getting the idea how jumbled the old grey matter is at times. These things fly by like birds on the wing, and it is all I can do to keep up.)

The apartheid government thought that it had imprisoned the light of Mandela, but it found that it had given his life a new meaning, and when Mandela emerged from the arrest of his normal life, he dazzled the world.

By now, the coffee was ready, and I hoped my day would not be quite so filled with wonders as my mornings tended to be.


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