Visual art is a mysterious gift. This morning I was looking around the “man-cave” (otherwise known as the room my mother avoids at all costs), and one of the pictures on the wall caught my attention. It is a photograph of my older brother when he was maybe two years old, sitting in a highchair with two pieces of cinnamon raison toast, rather daintily held in his hands. What makes this photo genius is the expression on his face as he looks at someone or something entertaining him in the room. The photo is just of him, so there is no way of knowing what sparked the childish joy on his face. However, his lips are pulled together in an amused smirk, and his eyelids are scrunched in the natural way they react to his smile. He is clearly trying to suppress full on laughter, which he is most definitely on the verge of releasing. His face is turned to the right of the cameraman (my father), giving the viewer a feeling of uninhibited reality. He was not posing for a picture; he was enjoying the moment without knowledge or care of who was watching him.
When I look at this photograph of my brother I feel as though I could walk right into that very moment. Though I was not around when this photo was taken, I find myself able to react to it as if I had been a part of the experience myself. There is little to distract me from my brother’s perspective of the moment, because his highchair is made out of plain brown wood, and the wall behind him is white. The intimacy of the moment is inviting to me as I feel it would be to anyone, because there is a warmth and simplistic nature easily understood as the happiness of youth. My eyes linger on this photo each time I view it because along with the simple warmth of my brother’s expression, is an aspect of mystery. I will always wonder at what I cannot see in this photo. The mystery of the unknown gives the photo a depth that is invisible to the careless observer, but striking to anyone who ventures even a moment’s consideration of the aberration it elicits.
While I love to look at photographs from my past, none have struck me in the way that this image of my brother does every time. To be able to connect with a moment in someone else’s life from just one image of them is incredible, and seldom possible. So many truths are expressed in this one photo, that I feel no written description could do it justice. I realize now that I am extremely lucky to understand the value of this singular photograph, when so many unimportant images flash before my eyes each day. Writing is my tool for understanding the feelings I get from simple everyday experiences. I find now that it has the power to give luster and meaning to what would otherwise remain blurred by the myriad of unimportant images begging to steal my attention.
If you have ever encountered a photograph or painting that has made a powerful impression on you, please tell me about it in the comments section below. (=