Stories in Black and White

I have been participating in a Facebook challenge.

This may seem like a no big deal, whatever, kind of thing, but I almost never, never, ever participate in group challenges. Never. This might be the first, in fact. I recognize and accept that a lot of people think the group challenges are fun but they usually don’t appeal to me, or motivate me, and sometimes it’s private. Like, nope, I’m not ever going to post the color of my underwear on my timeline, and while I realize that the intent of the “ice bucket challenge” was a fun way to motivate people to donate to a cause, it didn’t motivate me. If I decide to give to a cause, I will give without a lot of hoopla. I’ve kind of wondered if participating in group challenges is an extrovert/introvert type of thing. Extroverts might enthusiastically participate in the challenges because they are energized by people/groups while introverts are energized by more quiet, individual pursuits. It’s not a right/wrong thing, it’s the way different people are.

This Facebook challenge appealed to me deep down inside–I suspect because it is creative and involves a hobby I enjoy. It inspired and motivated me. The challenge was to share one black and white photo each day for seven days. The photo was to be a reflection of your life and be accompanied with no explanation.

I find it interesting that people who participated in the challenge interpreted it in different ways. Many shared photos they found on the internet that they felt were a reflection of their life. The way people fulfilled the challenge is interesting to me because how a person interprets the challenge is also a reflection of who they are. There are no wrong answers–it’s like if a group of artists were presented with the same scene to paint, they all would paint the scene differently because they would all see it differently and they would express what they saw differently. None would be wrong.

I chose to take my own photographs of small everyday moments that represent my life. I’ve always felt that each person’s life is a story–their story. I’ve sometimes stood in a grocery store watching all the people, both customers and employees, and wondered about the stories they were living. No doubt there was someone in the store who was getting married. Or someone who was joyfully expecting a baby–or someone who was grieving the loss of a baby. I remember when I had a miscarriage, EJ and I would turn our heads in sorrow and walk quickly past the baby aisle. Someone might be shopping for college–or for a move to their new home. Someone in the store was perhaps caring for a loved one with a serious illness or suffering abuse. I could almost hear the whispers of stories. I love the Doctor Who quote that “We are all stories in the end.”  And because I’ve always felt that small moments are as important and defining–or even more defining–than big moments in our lives, I love this quote that appeared on my Facebook page this morning:

“Our lives are made up of a series of moments. There will be small moments. Moments when you’re doing something so mundane you won’t realize you’re in a moment, but then you’ll remember it like a moment of true happiness. There will also be big moments. Life changing ones. Keep them all. They are what made you, you.” (Word Porn)

I think that the true value of a photograph is that it captures a moment in a person’s life story. Photographs are like book covers that give you a hint of the deeper story within. That is what I tried to capture in the black and white photos I shared. I’ve always taken colored photos–I love the beauty of colors–but I actually discovered a deep satisfaction in taking black and white photos. Black and white photos removed the distractions of color and brought out a simple beauty of their own.

In the challenge, we are supposed to share a photo without explanation.  I found that fascinating as well. As the photographer, I took each photo as a moment in the story of my daily life, but in not giving an explanation, each person was free to bring their own interpretation to what the photo was expressing. I think that is the function of art: besides being an expression of the artist, a piece of art also stirs up a memory or emotion in those who view it. I did not give any explanation of the photos I’m sharing at Facebook, but I love stories and I thought I’d share with you the stories of some of the photos I’ve been taking. Most of the photos I have shared at Facebook but a few I haven’t.

This is the first photo I shared on Facebook as part of the challenge. It represents more than just the fact that I like to crochet. In this photo I am working on items that a  customer ordered through my Etsy store. The photo represents sacrifices, hopes, and dreams. After our son JJ’s battle with cancer in 2013-2014, we felt that we needed a fresh start in a new place–not only from cancer, but also away from my abusive family and EJ’s very difficult job. So we moved to Northern Michigan, a place we have always deeply loved, a place that has always refreshed our spirits. Moving took risk, sacrifice, and every emotional, physical, and financial resource we had. I’m hoping to make enough of a success of my Etsy store that I can help pay down some of our debt. With JJ driving our second car to work and college, I don’t have transportation to pursue an outside job, but even if I did have transportation, life’s difficulties have worn us down and I am hoping that I can earn money by doing something I really enjoy instead of merely tolerate.  If EJ and I can make enough money to supplement our income through our on-line store, maybe he can actually retire someday and won’t have to work while he’s in pain. I think that behind every business is a story of why the owner started it.

This next photo represents how I usually write this blog–sitting in my chair by the window with a cat on my lap. I love cats–my lap is rarely empty–and I love writing, which is where I find my strongest voice. That might be because I am an introvert, or even more so because I am an INFJ personality type. INFJs tend to love animals and love to write. As one article describes:

“INFJs are often natural writers. We not only have the empathy to understand others, but as Introverts, we enjoy working alone. For many people, the solitude necessary for writing is the hardest part, but for INFJs, it often feels like a sanctuary. It gives us the time and space we need to stop and think, reflect on our ideas and express ourselves. As sensitive individuals, we are always absorbing information around us, including sights, sounds, smells, temperature, light and other people’s feelings. We are constantly processing this information and trying to make sense of it. Because we absorb so much, we need an outlet for all this energy. This is what gives us a creative drive. Without attending to our need for creative expression, however, we can quickly become ill or experience physical systems of being “blocked,” including skin problems, headaches, digestive ailments and sleep disorders.”

This is a photo of EJ working on the surburban, but it is so much more. In recent weeks, the surburban has been developing a growling noise that was growing worse. Normally, we would take it to a shop for repairs because EJ has chronic back pain from an injury he suffered years ago and working on vehicles is painful for him. However, it is difficult to find time to get our vehicle into the shop for repairs. It was hard enough to get the vehicle in the shop last summer when JJ didn’t have school, but almost impossible now when he has a very busy schedule of both school and work. We really need two vehicles in working condition. So EJ did the repairs himself this last weekend to spare us the difficulty of trying to get him and JJ to and from work and school. EJ worked on the vehicle all weekend in the snow, and after dark, and making multiple trips to the auto parts store for a part or tool he needed–all of which aggravated his injured back so much that he hardly slept last night. This isn’t just a photo of EJ working on a vehicle, it is a portrait of his deep, quiet love and sacrifice for his family. Because EJ is humble and doesn’t proclaim “Look at me! Look at all the good things I’m doing!” I don’t think many people see or appreciate what a truly good man he is. Through his life, EJ has anonymously and sacrificially helped out his siblings and friends, encouraged co-workers who were struggling, and faithfully provided for JJ and me. EJ has more goodness, integrity, humility, and sacrificial love than anyone I have ever known. And he has an awesome sense of humor.

This is a photo of Danny quietly sitting in the driveway covered with snow. Danny isn’t easy to photograph because usually he just looks like a big black blob, but this photo turned out well. I think that him sitting in the snow makes him look like a faithful, quiet, and protective guard dog, which he is. He rarely barks and he is completely devoted to me; he rarely leaves my side. He doesn’t rush, he quietly meanders around our property delighting in the scents. He is very sweet but has quiet principles–he usually obeys but when he doesn’t want to do as we ask, he just quietly stands his ground, smiling politely. We call him our “introverted dog.”  The snow on Danny also represents his old age. We have noticed him slowing down greatly–especially in the last year. He gets to his feet very slowly and stiffly these days, sometimes with whimpers. I think his days are becoming limited.

This is a photo of Josette, our most recent addition to our family. I refer to the outside cats as “the hunter, the singer, and the herder.” Madeline loves to roam and hunt; she’s always leaving dead mice or shrews in the garage. Annie is the singer with a very musical meow that is a delight to hear. For want of a better description, Josette is the “herder” who loves to help me with the ducks. When I go outside to care for the poultry, she always joins me. Sometimes I don’t see her when I first go out to the pen, but then I look up and find her waiting outside the gate so I let her in. Although they aren’t “cuddle bunnies” with each other–yet–Josette isn’t afraid of the ducks and the ducks aren’t afraid of her. Josette loves to wander around the pen, poking her nose here and there, watching the ducks and the chickens. She always leaves when I do.

I experimented with this photograph of my shadow with a camera poised to capture a beautiful sight on our property. I think it represented me quite well because although I don’t appear in my photographs, every photograph is an image seen through my eyes. I like to be an unseen presence sharing the beauty I see.

I found such satisfaction in taking one black and white photo of my life each day that I’m considering continuing it for a year. I’m trying to figure out how best to do it on this blog.

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4 Comments on “Stories in Black and White

  1. You truely are a delight TJ and I love you insight into the soul of another. Be it your loving hubby or Danny or any of your wonderful residents including JJ, thank you for sharing your gift.

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    • Thank you, Linda! That is such a sweet thing to say! ❤ I hope you and Bob are doing well! We send you our love!

      Like

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