The other night I was watching The Sopranos and there was a scene with Hal Holbrook where he plays a scientist who, while watching a boxing match, tells Tony (Soprano) that the two fighters in the ring are an illusion. We’re not separate entities, he says, we’re all together, in a soup of molecules. There is no distinct individual. We’re waveforms. Everything is everything.
I think about this a lot. I’ve always believed that everything is connected, beyond metaphor. Literally. Each of us is a thread in a vast fabric. Holbrook’s character goes on to say, we exist as individuals only in our consciousness.
Photographs seem to further this illusion. They seem to support an objective reality. They serve to reinforce our perception that we are entities, islands. Is it possible that over the last decade or so we’ve grown more distant from each other because of social media and the over-reliance on the so-called objective reality of the photograph?
I have said before that it’s possible for a photograph to convey something beyond the visual. A photograph can impart a spiritual consciousness. Something that belies the body or the face. Can a photograph of a person reveal, in some way, that connectedness?
I believe it can. I don’t know how but I’ve seen it, felt it, rely on it as a hallmark of my own work. I love people. And I love helping them to see themselves. But I also love this great mystery. Who are we? What are we? What is this life? Portrait photography is but a rung on the ladder of understanding what can probably never be understood.