When I had finished and we were sitting on the end of the dock with our feet in the water, Jonny said, Do you normally come to a place like this with other people?
I said, I’ve been here with my sister before. And I think Kim and Lottie, maybe. When we came here in the winter the lake was iced over and-
No, he said, I don’t mean to this place. I mean to a place like this.
He meant a place where you go to be alone. A place like Sorrel Lane or a place like the lake in the woods or a place like the top of the hill.
I decided a while ago that these were places where I could be selfish. They are places where you can be you without anybody else, and you can say what you want to say and think what you want to think and take the photographs you want to take. They are places which are quiet and places which don’t mind being invaded. They are places which let you leave as the same person you were when you first entered them.
Like I said, there has been a lot of selfishness on my part this week. Taking my photograph at the reservoir was, therefore, a natural extension. Only it was a little different this week, because I let someone come with me.
Jonny didn’t stay, though. He graciously took my hints, and wandered off while I went through my weekly rituals. You see, in so many ways these place I have found, places like the reservoir, are physical depictions of the process that goes on in my head when I take my photograph every week.
Fifty-two photography is a wonderfully solitary activity. Just as these places allow you to be who you are and say what you want while you are in them, this particular photography allow you to bare your soul, momentarily, within a tiny frame. The instant someone else enters that place, and the instant someone else enters the moment in which you are taking that photograph, the experience is entirely changed. You are entirely changed.
If someone else is present when I am taking my fifty-two, the photograph I come back with is extraordinarily different to the one I would have had I been alone. I knew this when we were making the origami boats and Jonny asked if he could come with me. I said yes, but when we got to the dock I think he understood. He wandered, and I set the shot up on my own, battled with the wind and candles on my own, and took the photographs on my own. The experience, and therefore the photograph, was like any other week: solitary and, yes, selfish.
But there is a beautiful contradiction. When the taking of the photograph is done, and when it has been plucked and pruned in Photoshop, is it not uploaded to the internet for the world to see?
I still don’t really know how this makes sense. It’s some more thinking. It’s another blogpost. But it’s just one example of the contradictions that filled my fifty-two this week.
In the photograph itself, fire and water are juxtaposed with the candles and the lake. As well as this, she is asleep with her head on a pillow – yet she is also outside, and her feet are dirty. It is almost as though the dream she is having has manifested itself in her real, waking life. The contradiction, the wonderful irony, comes with the fact that she is unconscious, and therefore entirely unaware that the story she has made up in her head has become her reality.
The candles may represent stars, above her head, and the boats – well, they need a blogpost all of their own. There are six, though; a small fleet, and they are pointed in different directions.
The final contradiction of the evening was one which I didn’t recognise myself. When I had finished and we were sitting on the end of the dock with our feet in the water, and we had talked about enchanted places and their link with selfishness, I said, I like the selfish experience more than the sharing experience. It’s easier.
And Jonny said, No, you can have both at the same time. Because I’m sitting here with my thoughts and I can’t tell what you’re thinking, and you’re sitting there with your thoughts and you can’t tell what I’m thinking. So, I can have my selfish experience, while sharing all of this with you.
It is possible to be simultaneously selfish and sharing. It is possible, despite the apparent contradiction, to be at once sitting next to somebody, and simultaneously in an entirely different place altogether.
ps, In the picture, one question remains. Her face is hidden from the camera. Are her eyes closed; is she really asleep? And if not, what kind of contradiction does that throw upon the entire photograph?