The whole digital photography thing fascinates me: here’s this postage-stamp sized plastic chip in the camera that captures and contains so much of my world, so much of what I miss. With it I can hold and reproduce a million memories in tiny thumbnail scenes that I might enlarge or erase, copy as-is, or change.
A year ago today I borrowed a small point-and-shoot and could barely manage it. And today, if I’m up at sunrise, I scramble outside half-dressed with my new compact Canon PowerShot to catch the earliest morning light kissing the pond.
It’s the Photoshop program that really excites me. Photoshop has intriguing “Tools” to work with. There’s a Patch Tool and a Path Selection Tool, a Dodge Tool and an Add Anchor Tool, a Magic Eraser, a Magic Wand, a Clone Stamp, … a Healing Brush. From the beginning, I played with digital ghosts and photo-shopped pale images of my daughter’s face onto all my landscapes. There is something comforting about being able to “put” your loved one in a cozy place, maybe sitting next to you, even if it’s just in a thumb drive or on paper.Photoshop has intriguing tools to work with. Like a magic wand, a healing brush and a clone stamp. Using layer masks I put my own image into a picture many times.
“Mom, I leave for Afghanistan next Friday,” my son announces. I feel like I’ve been shot. My days disintegrate. It snows in April. My driveway floods. Another friend is diagnosed with cancer. The cat won’t stop tormenting the dog. But I photo-shop away wrinkles and add candlelight to my pictures. I put cats in Times Square. I clone myself. Maybe I like photo-shopping because I can control my universe. I’m not at the mercy of cancer and changing tides in Photoshop. I can Shift-Click, drag and drop a girl running with her rabbit in the flaming sun. Stars shine and flowers blossom in my living room. I can move the moon.
“Oh no!” I cry out in class one day. “All my work just disappeared.” With an unintentional click, the project I spent hours on is gone. My heart stops and I stare in disbelief at a dark empty computer screen.
“Just click on Float All In Windows,” says Harry who teaches the class. In a click my precious “lost” images are all lined up neatly before me awaiting my next command.
“You can’t lose anything in Photoshop,” says Harry. “It’s all right there. It’s just hidden in another layer.” I imagine Marika, not gone, just hidden in layers that surround me. There are adjustment layers, restoration layers, background and mask layers, layers and levels of saturation, shadows and curves. The possibilities for change and control are endless.
My approaches to photography and writing differ. I work hard to find the right words to describe reality, the truth. The way something looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes. I could never write fiction; it just isn’t in me. But when I photo-shop, I can tell a different story. So I tell the truth in words but shamelessly stretch it in my photos. And I call the whole thing “healing.”
I didn’t take the photography course with any expectation of finding it helpful in my healing process. But photography distracts me from my depressing drab world. And it simultaneously beckons me to zoom in on the fresh brilliance of my waiting world.
What helps you feel better about yourself and the world around you?