What’s the shape of red? That’s how I feel when someone asked me to describe myself. My intention is never to be aloof, I just don’t know. I do feel that my sense of self changes, moves and when I’m lucky, evolves.
Witness it. Don’t try to cage it.
So often we try to be too definitive in what we see. That what we’ve captured is cast in stone. I don’t believe this, at least I don’t’ approach it like that. All I can hope to do is maybe reflect that one split second of time—it changes as quickly as it’s caught. However, no matter how brief that moment is, it’s an honest one. We’ve all read about the Philip Seymour Hoffman tragedy and maybe have seen the Victoria Will’s tintype of him in his last days. Does it say all there is about the man? That he was a creative force that we seldom ever see? That he was a loving and giving friend and father? Probably not, but it does say, to me, that in that briefest of moments, that spark of light captured, he was hurting so goddamn bad. It’s sad. It’s moving. It’s hard. It’s also honest and in that it’s glorious. I wonder to myself, as a man five years into recovery, what might his reaction have been to that photo? What would mine have been to a photo taken of me during my bottom days? How would I have viewed myself in that moment? Would I have accepted its honesty? Probably not, but the fact is, I never gave myself that chance. I never had the awareness nor the courage to try and be that honest with myself.
These days I shoot my ass off with selfies. I don’t take them with any thought of them being on a wall or in a wallet. Nope, I just take them to check in, look me in the eye, to see how I’m doing. Will I know for sure when witnessing of self? Maybe not, but I do know that the practice is my hope, my grace—its honest. It’s asking me to put down shame and accept me in that moment. It’s my way to understand and maybe come a little bit closer to understanding myself.
Would Philip Seymour Hoffman seeing his last portrait have saved his life? Can’t say. What I can say is that my momentary little captures have saved mine.