Buddha Lives in Versailles & Dog Crap

Paris exists as a city of wild contradictions.

Versailles, the Louvre, Chanel, Monet, Manet, Haute Couture arises from the same sidewalks upon which thriving piles of dog shit live.

Some of them reside in Paris’ 1st Arrondissement, home to the Louvre, the Ritz and Place de la Concorde. Money and dog poo together.

The trash and now constant stream of pedestrians ogling their phones like bar denizens at 2 am and dog shit can frustrate.

But then Paris does what only Paris can do: Reward your side-stepping-dog-shit efforts with a magnificent – and often humble – gesture. The way the sun casts a shadow across an old boulangerie, a jaw-dropping sculpture tucked into a tiny park not found on any map, a woman dancing to a flamenco guitarist in Montmartre.

a woman dances with a red cape

The profane and the sublime together, two sides of the same thing.

An exquisite leg of duck roasted just so can only be exquisite because it is not dog shit or trash or iPhone oglers.

Conversely trash and dog piles can only be nasty and stinking and fear-inducing because they aren’t exquisite nor refined nor symbols of wealth.

One must have the other.

I was reminded on my last trip to Paris how good and evil live within one another; and how we’ve all co-created Donald Trump. This sounds like heresy, I know.

We’ve made a blood-sport out of proving how vastly inhuman Trump is, at least as compared to us.

But we’ve all lied, blustered, bullied, engaged in degrading/unthinking/stupid behaviors against classes of people different from us, denied personal responsibility and culpability. All of it. We’ve all done all of it at some point in our lives.

These actions writ large and into the Presidency of the United States do terrify me. Yet making Trump somehow different from me, like making the dog shit into some existential travesty, solves nothing and serves no one.

A country that enshrined slavery and the disenfranchisement of women in its founding document will occasionally throw out a Trump.

It’s good to be reminded of who we are and where we came from. If we believe we are Versailles or Manet or that exquisite leg of roasted duck, it’s good to remember we need some shit in our lives to prop us up and make us shine a little brighter.

Namaste.

The Viewfinder

Consider the lowly viewfinder.

I often don’t. And I think my photography suffers for it.

Too often I just snap at what is in front of me and forget one very important fact about the lowly viewfinder: Through it we have the power to frame a subject in innovative or extraordinary ways. Instead we too often become focused on the subject of the photo and nothing else.

Framing is about as fundamental design principle as exists in photography. Will the subject be in the center of the picture? Lower third? Upper third?

Through the viewfinder we take the everything that confronts us and snap that something that makes a photo.

How many of us consider the edges of the viewfinder when we compose a shot? It is through the viewfinder – whether a traditional eyepiece over the lens or the screen of an iPhone – where we create a photo.

The viewfinder offers us a photo’s boundaries. But these edges need not constrict us. Rather the viewfinder’s edges offer us opportunities to see the world in novel and exciting ways.

Play with what is included or excluded by the viewfinder.

On the Move

As a photographer I am enchanted with what happens just beyond the viewfinder. If a viewfinder is a frame, what lies just beyond it? As viewers we fill in what is happening. Whether this photo works as a photo, I am not sure. I offer it as a way to push notions of the viewfinder.

Artistic implications

Amateurs include unwanted or unnecessary information in a photograph. Professionals do not. Through practice professional photographers use their viewfinder and their sense of design to exclude unwanted detail and emphasize only those pictorial components that support the subject matter.

Professionals move, using their viewfinders and their feet to shoot a subject from a variety of perspectives.

I’m training myself to do is MOVE THE VIEWFINDER!! Gosh I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve taken where I take just one photo. Different angles bring different perspectives. The several photos below are all of the same scene. In all of them I’ve moved the viewfinder.

viewfinder-3

viewfinder-4

viewfinder

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