April Letter: on narration, representation, and Birch rooting in the soul
I really enjoyed reading this. I too have had moments of seeing something sacred site that touched my soul... then immediately springing for a camera to try and ineffectively capture its essence. And for what? A picture that will be seldom seen in my digital camera reel rather than a complete immersion in the moment?
Excellent! Although, and if I'm being honest only sometimes, I use the filters to better represent my experience not to obfuscate or mediate the real. No picture can ever capture the experience of your porch but the filtered image is closer, not just to the public gaze, but you're own. But still, mediated thought, mediated experience. This is so good. Much appreciation.
I don't doubt what you are writing is of value Rhyd and I like the stuff about Baudrillard and photography but I'm getting to a stage with Substack when it's starting to feel a bit like 'clever Facebook'. I don't mean this personally. There's lots of thought provoking ideas being posted by various insightful writers - including the stuff I've read by yourself - but I'm just getting fatigued by it all. There is simply too much to keep up with and after a while it all kind of melds into something one could call 'onlinetheoryfatigue'. Baudrillard (or Derrida) would have loved this world and no doubt said something clever about it all reaching a point of infinite regress. I wonder if it's just me but the advent of God-like AI is making me want to ignore, delete or unplug the whole bloody lot. Maybe I should read your book instead:-) Good ole paper...
This is why I love music. Words and pictures and videos allow the transfer of information. I love a video for learning how to replace the turn signal switch in my car. But music allows for the sharing of experiences. Music transcends culture and language and even humanity.
I think this is one of my favorite things you have written. You have found the words for what I have been thinking and feeling for quite some time and could not articulate. Thank you.
I love thinking about how taking a photo makes you think differently about that moment in time, that experience.
I recently went to a musical weekend where I didn't pick up my phone/camera for four days. I just loved everything. Others took photos, but I am so glad that I was just there in the moment.
Now I have all these wonderful memories of that weekend that are full of gorgeous feelings, sounds, laughter and energy. No photo could give me those memories in precisely that way.
If I'd had my camera, would I have photographed the slippery mud, or the way out gazebo sagged where the water pooled? Almost certainly not, yet those moments are lessons for next time. I gained from them.
Then there was the fabulous bush poet. No photo would have captured the way he could transform his face as appropriate to the story.
I am glad for my weekend of freedom.
You touched on this in another post about being an American in Europe and talking to Europeans about America, but it often feels like there are two Americas, the simulation and the real. While I think that wanting to narrate one’s experience is human, and that social media has made this much more intense for everyone regardless of culture, there is something that feels particular to my American-ness about my own desire to repackage my experiences to others in very specific ways. Americans have been telling a story about ourselves for a long time that isn’t true, and a lot of people collapse under the weight of it, but instead of just being, we are all scrambling with each other to find a new narrative that helps us save face.