Looking At The Sun

dog photography, dogs, Healthy Living, Photographer
Charlie Brown on a recent woods walk.

How have you been? I hope that you are healthy. I’m sorry that I haven’t written in a while. We’re all fine, but for many months now, I’ve felt that I had nothing new to say. 

The calendar dates changed, my hair grew long, and we’ve aged a little. I was taking the same photos of the dogs on the couch and the cat at the window, so I put my camera down, even though I bought a fancy new one. I stopped researching dog-friendly hotels along road trip routes. The subzero cold weather during January froze out not only our outdoor activities but also zapped my creativity. I’ve felt like I’ve been living a never-ending loop of Groundhog Day.

This morning it was finally warm enough to take our full morning walk, and I realized that I no longer needed to bring a flashlight. The sun was just beginning to rise, turning the sky a vibrant pink. Last weekend, I picked up a camera, and finished a roll of film. I started the roll so long ago that I’ll be completely surprised when I receive my negatives. Pushing the shutter felt good. I’m crawling out of my hole, but I’m looking up at the sun so I don’t see my shadow.

A couple of days ago, I entered a few of my dog images to a juried show. Maybe they’ll pick me; maybe they won’t. I noted the irony of having someone choosing a photo of one of my rescue pups, dogs that I had once picked – or rather were matched with me– by the rescue organization. Dogs that the rescue organization had picked.

Anyway, part of the art show application process is always the inclusion of “The Artist’s Statement.” This short piece of writing isn’t supposed to be a biography but rather the artist’s thoughts or mindset concerning the piece. I stared at the entry form on the screen, my mind as blank as the form. A quick Google query on famous artist statements yielded interesting results, but my form was still unfilled. (See: https://proactivecreative.com/powerful-artist-statement-examples/)

What was I thinking when I plopped a purple wig on Linus before I snapped his photo?

“Peace, Out”: Linus, shot on medium format film in our backyard

Introspection ensued. At the time I took the photos, I had been spending most of my waking hours in zoom meetings. The outside world was turning golden and warm in late summer, with puffy clouds and bird songs. Inside, I was on a small laptop, holed up in my dark home office, dressed in a blazer, blouse, and a pair of golf shorts, staring at a screen of squares. I was simultaneously experiencing two versions of reality, but neither seemed real or normal.

As our dogs are a mirror of ourselves, Linus in the purple wig enjoying the breeze was my alter ego. He embodied where my head was. My hair had grown long again during the pandemic, but I wear it tied back at work. In one of the submitted photos, the purple hair is loose, with strands caught in the soft breeze. Linus’ eyes are nearly closed; his nose gently gathering the air’s scents. He looks serene.

In another photo I submitted, Linus is lying in the grass, again with the purple wig, and wearing an old pair of my sunglasses. He is looking straight at the camera. On social media, I captioned the photo “My new zoom look.”

“Groovy, Man”: Another shot of Linus, taken on medium format film

Through Linus, I could express my feelings in a way one can’t while dressed in a blazer. I was feeling confined, closed in my dark spare bedroom, captured in a small square on a small screen, and constrained by structured clothing. My hours working were often long and my schedule was unpredictable. I longed to be outside where I could relax and literally let my hair down. These photos were self-portraits of my thoughts. I wanted fresh air. I wanted serenity.

About my hair: During the pandemic, my blonde highlights grew out and my hair color is now a reddish light brown with occasional strands of silver. I don’t have plans to dye my hair purple, but maybe, once it becomes mostly grey, I might try sunrise pink.

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