The beautiful images in this post are from a heart-warming collection called Domestic Series created by artist Leslie Graff. The images I’ve used are featured with extremely kind permission from Leslie. I’ve included info about where you can see more of Leslie’s stunning work beside the share buttons, at the end of this post.
I love my camera. I love the photos I take, the moments captured that hold memories of things and feelings that might otherwise be forgotten. I am an obsessive, unapologetic hoarder of photos. I have thousands – some ‘real’, most digital. I’ll never let them go. They are my time travel machine. They are evidence of smiles at times when my heart was heavy and records of scenes that we set and met along the way.
All that said, I’m a believer that some moments are killed by the urge to document them. I’ve seen people distance themselves from other people and experiences by putting a camera between their participation and the action, like localised social and emotional anesthesia. By giving themselves a job to do they don’t have to engage in the work of connecting. As smartphones increasingly become hardwired into our behaviour, the balance may be tipping from the moments we’re capturing to the moments we don’t know we’re losing because we’re experiencing life mainly through the viewfinder.
Some moments are not meant to be captured. Some moments are just for the heart, for the time that they happen, like smoke from a blown out match. Beauty and fascination can and should exist in a temporary state, too. Sometimes it’s important to just be right there and to drink something in, deciding not to focus on the possibility that you’ll forget what you’ve seen and knowing that it’s OK if you do anyway. Life’s tapestry is rich. If we hold onto everything we deny space for surprises and spontaneity. Sometimes it’s more important to hold someone’s gaze and give them and you a memory than it is to point and shoot.
I had a run in the Pentlands recently that was full of things I’d liked to have photographed. A woodpecker checking out trees. A distressed frog, crying out and being harassed by a crow. An elderly lady, cheering me on and smiling loudly from her car, as if I were in the Olympics and she my coach. God, I loved her. An encounter with a young spaniel pup bursting with happiness at being allowed to say hello to my big, gentle Flat-Coat guy. A cyclist wearing a Go-Pro on his helmet passed. I realised I’d been documented smiling at him, saying hello, running with my dog, possibly uploaded on YouTube that night along with the rest of his ride, set to music and called a memory and an experience. Archived. Shared. Witnessed. Preserved. Uploaded to the cloud, as we all will be, some day.
Later last week I walked through The Meadows and Marchmont with the dog. Between the traffic and shouting from one builder to another I suddenly heard voices singing together, accompanied by simple piano music. I didn’t know the song but it spilled over into the street, rising over the wall of the school yard, up to the highest tree branches and diffusing into the blue of the sky.
I stood and took my phone out, ready to capture the scene and the sounds. I wanted to share the moment but could tell that all I’d record would be the traffic. So I just stood and listened. Children, safe in their school, hopefully safe in their childhoods, so close to the heart of the city, singing. Them – not knowing if anyone was listening. Me – accepting that I couldn’t help anyone else to listen and wondering when that had become so important anyway.
Leslie Graff’s website is here. There are 60 pieces in the Domestic Series collection. Together, they’re a wonderland of colour and a poignant exploration of home, family and feminine self. Leslie’s work is also featured on Saatchi Art, here. You can find Leslie on Instagram @lesliegraff and on Twitter @lesliegraffart. If you value a great interview, I found this excellent one while researching Leslie’s work online.