Early in my journey along the dizzying arc of this mortal coil, I developed a disinclination for literalism. Much like Perseus avoided spontaneous petrification by looking at Medusa’s reflection rather than facing her directly, I find life is far less toxic and infinitely more nuanced when viewed through abstraction.
A subject photographed directly is often clinically precise, yet cold as stone. But a subject photographed metaphorically is infused with life — inviting exploration and interpretation. It’s why I avoid aiming my camera at fact, and instead point it toward connotation.
It’s also why I like to hide stories in the space between written words. Why must literature be literal if it’s so much richer when figurative? Literalism, I believe, is best reserved for mathematical figures.
We are awash in the tangible. Architecture, cars, pets, landscapes, friends, fashion, etc. Anyone who wants a photo of tonight’s apricot-coloured sunset needs only to train a camera at the western sky and release the shutter. But what if someone wants a metaphorical sunset photo? Setting aside the relative unlikelihood of such a desire, how would one even go about creating such a thing? What camera would you use? Where would you point it? And when? I’m lightyears away from being clever enough to assign myself such tasks. Which is why I choose, instead, to simply stumble upon my metaphorical photos.
The hiccup with this particular technique is that it sometimes takes years to figure out just what each photograph is a metaphor for. It’s why I tend to glare at someone when they ask, “Did you get any good photos today?” It’s easier than saying, “I don’t know — ask me in a couple of years,” and then having to explain what that means.
This whole ‘shoot first, figure it out later’ scenario worked rather well when I was young. Time was still on my side, and never once did a client ask me for a metaphorical photo of anything — so I could take as long as I needed to figure out what it was I had photographed. I’m now at an age that only 15% of the world’s population would categorize as ‘young,’ and I’m beginning to realize that I likely have fewer years remaining than I have metaphors to identify.
So I’ve decided to leverage my internet ‘fame,’ and cloud-source the identification task. As an experiment, I’ve populated this article with a few scans from my two most recently exposed rolls of film. Perhaps some clever readers can help me identify exactly what I was photographing when I took these photos? I have no doubt that each and every one of them is an honest-to-goodness, bona fide metaphor… but a metaforwhat?
©2019 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE:
This was originally going to be an article about metaphors in general, rather than photographic metaphors. But I couldn’t work through the paradox of how a parabolic writer could pen an article about metaphor without addressing the subject of allegory allegorically. To not do so would be disingenuous and conflicted. But to do so would create the literary equivalent of a feedback loop, which I’m quite certain would act as a catalyst for the formation of dark matter. And since dark matter emits no light and cannot be seen, there’s really no point in writing and posting such a thing. There’s already enough dark matter on the ULTRAsomething site… metaphorically speaking.
And since someone will inevitably want to know: All photos were taken on expired Kentmere 100 and processed in a 1:50 solution of Rodinal. The two horizontal shots come courtesy of an early 1970’s Rollei 35T, while the two vertical shots arrived behind the shutter of a late 1940’s Leica IIIc fronted with a 35mm f/3.5 Elmar lens.
REMINDER: If you find these photos enjoyable or the articles beneficial, please consider making a DONATION to this site’s continuing evolution. As you’ve likely realized, ULTRAsomething is not an aggregator site — serious time and effort go into developing the original content contained within these virtual walls.