Loose Ends:  Aspiration and Compromise
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Loose Ends: Aspiration and Compromise • Posted: Dec 30, 2010 09:35:28Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

There are many contradictions in the above images: left vs. right profiles, old vs. young, male vs. female, glamor vs. not, materialism vs. not, wear and tear vs. preventive maintenance, etc., etc. But as I look at them I can't help being reminded of a couple of items from my past.

The pink lady recalls for me a girl I knew in high school, a modern dancer. I used to steal glimpses of her practicing with her fellow dancers before and after I went to gymnastics practice. I was totally awestruck by her grace and form. There was one other dancer just as talented, and equally attractive, but the other's dancing often left me with the impression of looming tragedy. By contrast, the one that interested me often left the impression of a beautiful bird about to take flight. Needless to say, I was wowed to the point of eventually asking her out. In the end, I took her to the prom. But our relationship never went anywhere. Our aspirations were very different. She was much more interested in acquiring the cultural manifestations of power and status than I ever was. My interests were far more academic, trying to understand the workings of the phenomenal world, especially human behavior. Eventually, there seemed less and less for us to talk about. Neither of us proved willing to compromise in favor of keeping up the friendship. Last I'd heard, she'd left college to take a job as a Playboy Bunny. I have no doubt that, talented and as attractive as she was, she eventually realized many of her aspirations. But I have little notion of the compromises she had to make, or the level of satisfaction she eventually achieved.

About that same time, late high school, I was also working part-time as a photojournalist for a set of local newspapers. The guy pictured on the left above reminds of an incident I covered back then, a death. A young guy, maybe 25 or so, had dropped by his parents house to help trim a tree out in their front yard. He'd climbed up into it and was trimming around a power line. Unfortunately, he touched or cut where he shouldn't have and electrocuted himself. When I got there, the fire department was just taking him down while his mother stood watching in horror. I don't remember seeing the father at that time, but the mother sticks vividly in mind, as does the blue body of the son lying on the ground beneath the tree at her feet. Eventually, though, I did meet the father. He looked much like that man in the picture above, dour, deliberate, worn of many compromises, but still pushing onward. He wished to see all my negatives, hoping they might be useful in a law suit regarding his son's death. Only one or two of my images were potentially of use. That made me sad, but it wasn't what I was interested in when I photographed the scene. My editor teased me that lighting, composition, drama, and expression weren't what the guy was looking for. But those were my aspirations at the time. And they were certainly appropriate aspirations for a newspaper story.

At every point in our lives we choose. And in choosing, we aspire to certain outcomes. But with every choice alternatives are lost to us and tolls are extracted. Compromise and its consequences are inescapable. We wear the scars for the rest of our lives.

In the long run, may your satisfactions prove worth the scars you both acquire and inflict.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010