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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Meaning...of Meaningful

"Happiness comes when you believe that you have done something truly meaningful."                                                     - Chef Martin Yan

"2 Rms, Cty Vw", London
I suppose it might be because this has already been a year of changes, of transitions, that the subject of mortality and our own permanent -- as much as this is possible -- contribution to the world becomes a thing foremost in my mind. 

When I look back at my relatively modest success as a photographer/blogger, I have to consider the responses from others and the degree to which my comments and illustrations  rise up and evaporate like some sort of mythic volcano, though -- admittedly -- my volcano is really more of a pinprick in a watering hose at the moment. And it may never become more than that, which is satisfying as long as a handful of folks see, read and appreciate what it is I am trying to do. I have discovered that invariably the most popular blog entries are the ON THE ROAD series, which are pretty much photo essays without a whole lot of commentary. So be it. My first voice is my camera, and only the second is my keyboard.

A good friend of mine, social psychologist and novelist  Susan K Perry (that's her blog uppermost right on this page) recently asked the question "is your life meaningful?" suggested her readers ask themselves "What can I do that gives me a sense of being engaged in something larger than my own smallish daily self?"

It's a terrific question.

This of course begs a lot of introspection to properly address. I've written a few essays -- most notably The Bohemian Hedonist -- which deal with the difference between being satisfied in life with business achievements, parental successes, and with the more intense sort of personal accomplishments such as physical conditioning or artistic development.
"Here The Be Vampires" - New Orleans

Despite the looming fact that I will not be remembered beyond much of our current generation, as an artist or even as a person, I find myself satisfied that I have, in some small way, added to the world's Oeuvre of art by both doing my own, and by encouraging others in their own endeavors. It's my pleasure to know a lot of very gifted creative types, and it is with them I suppose my more lasting legacy will be accomplished. Almost nobody remembers the name of Georgia O'Keeffe's great aunt -- or whoever it was -- who was the first person to give her a pastel set, but everyone sees the result.

Likewise the family member who saw a young Ansel Adams with his first developed photographs and told him he might have a talent.

It's often the little things which count.

But this is not the focus of this essay. Below are a handful of shots I have taken on my travels. As I repeat constantly, the purpose of travel is to see new things, to experience new experiences and get a feel for cultures other than our own. My recent trip around the Southwest reaffirmed these values. (The mention of O'Keeffe and Adams is not accidental. The two of them contributed greatly to our appreciation of the Southwest's unique beauty.)

I have added a title to each shot, but otherwise no comment. These are among my favorites and for a variety of reasons. (I have quite a few others which it is killing me to leave out, but this is not a full gallery, it's a tiny snippet.) Some of these shots clearly evoke their locale, others merely exist and the setting is more important than the coordinates. But each, I think, is part of my artistic side. The side that sees the lens as the access to the canvas, and allows me to do a bit more than simply document the scene before me.

Is my value as an artist -- and as a contributor to society -- based more upon the body of my work, or is based more upon the value of a single impact upon -- or gesture towards -- another person?

Each one of these shots has a meaning for me, but is it the place of the photographer to impose that on the viewer? If these were strictly travel-related, I might be tempted to add notes and state what it was about each destination that made me want to express myself in this way....but speaking strictly as a photographic artist, I need to let the image speak for itself (with maybe a subtle helping had from the title). It can go either way. Does the audience want to know the context, or do they want to suss it out themselves and determine their own resonance with a piece?

You decide.

"Night in the Bastille" - Paris

"Hiking the Red Rocks" - Nevada
"Winter Along the Emerald Isles" - North Carolina

"Bistro" - New Orleans
"Galleries" - Brussels

"Watcher" - Chenonceau, France

"Romantic Dreams" - Venice
"Street of Dreams and Nightmares" - Hollywood

"Paradise in Hanalei" - Kauai

"Waiting" - North Carolina

"Stormy Skies Above Bandelier" - New Mexico

"Two Sisters" - Sierra Nevada

"Stopped Along the Strip" - Las Vegas
"Bear" - Churchill, Canada

"Southwest" - Sedona

1 comment:

  1. I like the simplest titles best. It's all we need to lose ourselves in the photos themselves. Which are really special, need I add?