Imagine you’re heading out to pick up something from the grocery store when you pause at the doorway, glance over to someone you love, and say to them without much thought or feeling, “see you shortly”. Now imagine you’re heading through that same doorway, glancing at that same person, but this time you’re going away for an indefinite period, perhaps not seeing them again for a very long time. Same participants, same physical action of walking through a doorway, but very different energy. In the latter you *really* look at them, your eyes wanting to take in every detail, your heart open and vulnerable. You want to touch and be touched. There’s an intensity to this scenario that fills the air with everything you’ve ever felt for this person, and you know you simply can’t leave without conveying something of the love and appreciation you have for them.
For many years I would sit with clients when they viewed their photo session proofs for the first time. And what I observed in these moments was not so altogether different than the intensity of that doorway departure described above. They would take in the photographs so fully, and with such openness, that it quite often would move them to tears. What is it about photography that can elicit such emotion? The child whose image they were viewing may have even been sitting on their lap in this moment, and yet they experience the photograph with the same vivid and raw tenderness of a heartfelt goodbye.
I wonder if in a way photographs really are a form of goodbye. I may have captured a moment in time with my camera, and yet upon later looking at the resulting photograph there is this awareness that a threshold has in fact been crossed, and that moment will not be again. Simple fragments of light sensitive material become visible evidence of the ever changing nature of life.
Photographs cause us to linger at the doorway and recall the bittersweet intensity of a moment fully realized and completely taken in. While we certainly can’t experience that sort of passionate earnestness all day everyday, to feel it is to understand the unimaginable depth of love residing in us always. At the doorway we behold those we love free of the usual barriers, and without hesitation to express what most genuinely is us.