The Thing We're Chasing is Light

Image: Daras Bareya

The real subject of a good photograph is light.

The moments we want to catch are rare not only because the event is rare, but because the event in combination with the right lighting is. In fact, the thing we look for, the thing we're chasing, is light.

A friend once told me that ‘the beautiful’ is that which is uncommon. He said it nonchalantly, as though obvious. But it stuck with me. However much beauty we find, or see, or experience, it always feels like an exception in the world. It’s a stubborn and delicate force, cutting through the banality of existence, carving on our hearts.

However much beauty we find, or see, or experience, it always feels like an exception in the world.

The light, if you’re looking, does this. It slices open the humdrum, revealing an apparition or hologram or a flicker on the sea-like surface of an eye. Click. Then it’s gone.

They're like butterflies, these photographs. Once captured, they're not quite the same. But maybe there's more to it than just the capturing. A butterfly catcher will always notice butterflies in flight, and if you’re trying to catch beauty with a shutter you begin to notice and chase the uncommon light.

In the end, the light is never really caught, but vision is. What the chaser of light finds is a way of seeing, an increased capacity for noticing, for feeling the uncommon. And what is felt is not the light, or the lack of it, but the place in between—the seepage, the pinpoints on the fringe. And that is rare indeed.