Monday, November 24, 2008

Technically Perfect vs. Emotionally Perfect.

My weekend homework for The Photographer's Workshop was to identify a photo that is emotionally perfect versus technically perfect. A really good photograph will have both. Since we're just beginning the course, the assumption is that we're not yet technically perfect. Amen to that.

An "emotionally perfect photo" documents a truly authentic moment.

The following picture was taken on my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary last Summer.

We had prepared a very special gourmet meal for them, with fancy invitations, table setting etc. (Kind of like the scene from "It's a Wonderful Life" where Mary creates a honeymoon paradise for George in the midst of their dilapidated old house...) My oldest niece had prepared music from 1957 and my parents' song "Too Young" by Nat King Cole. All of the ten grandchildren dressed in black/white "uniforms" and served the various courses of the meal.

My father was very emotional that evening.

On the one hand, he was overwhelmed by the love shown by his children and his grandchildren. On the other hand, in the back of his mind, he knew this was probably the last anniversary he would have on this earth with his beautiful bride of 50 years.

In the same shot, you see the immense joy and love of a grandmother hugging her youngest grandchild. The littlest one...the one most recently having come to the world, loved and hugged by the one who was next in line to leave it. The juxtaposition of the immense joy and the tremendous sadness comes through for me in this photo. It's a pictorial representation of the emotions of not just that weekend, but the entire last year with my mother.

Technically, it's not very good at all. But emotionally, it captured a lot.

This past week my teacher, Karen Russell, said a few things that really hit home...

"Good photographs evoke emotion. Good photographs document connections. And good photographs tell stories."

"There is no one in the world that can document your life or your family's life quite like you -- not even a professional photographer. And that's because you've got the insider's perspective."

"As much as I would love for all my photos to be technically perfect...that's not what drives me. What drives me is capturing an emotionally perfect photo. What drives me is documenting a truly authentic moment. I'm not nearly as driven by the technical aspects of photography as I am by the emotional aspects of photography."
When I'm reading what she has to say, I can't help but substitute the word "needlework" for "photography".

We all have needlework in our possession that is emotionally perfect though maybe not technically so. I guess I may have started on my needlework journey looking to gain technical expertise but it's the emotionally-perfect pieces that I'm drawn to work on and which stir my heart.

Hmm. Makes me wonder what my most emotionally-perfect piece of needlework is?

I have to think about that one. How about you?


Maureen said...

Susan -
Your blog is so wonderful to read in the morning (well actually any time of day, but particularly as one of the first things I read). This one is great.
I love your new banner!!!!
It is so beautifully appropriate.

Judy S. said...

Love the quote in your sidebar, Susan. That was a very interesting chose a great photo for emotional content, and I was surprised to learn that was your mom as I thought it was you. Your smiles are so simlar. Photos sure do bring back memories, don't they. Your teacher's perspectives are very intriguing. Thanks for including them!

Carol said...

Funny thing, when I finish reading your blog, I usually think what a wonderful presentation. You pictures really express what you are writing about. You have a knack with the camera and the needles!

Tracey N. said...

This is a beautiful story and a lovely picture. The joy on your mothers face is priceless, and the sadness of emotion on your fathers face is so touching. Something about the big strong men crying gets to me every time. Just lovely, thanks for sharing.

Allison Ann Aller said...

What an amazing family you have...
And what a priceless, poignant photo...

The idea of emotionally perfect needlework really appeals to me.
I am convinced that the work that comes from "the gut" is always far and away the best....technical expertise is always only to serve that deeper impulse.

Jacquie said...

Susan, I really did get a little teary eyed reading your post and looking at the photo. What a wonderful moment in time that everyone dressed in black and white and served their grandparents. That had to be so special and rewarding for your parents. And the quote in your sidebar has fit many times in my life..will have to check out that authors books.

black bear cabin said...

your photo was heartfelt and definitely told a story to me. i remember our last christmas with my father...we all tried to keep the spirits up, but we knew it would be our last christmas together, and it was a difficult time for all of us.

Now, when i photograph our family, i try to capture those "moments" that i dont have on film with my father. My family makes fun of me for the millions of pictures i take, but i notice they all want copies after the fact.

Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us in your beautiful blog! You take wonderful pictures and i love visiting!!!

Anonymous said...

what a great photo - and great memories. you have the knack of making me want to cry a good way ;).

im not sure what my most emtionally perfect peice of embrodiery is...but im going to think about it thanks to you. xx

verobirdie said...

Difficult to realize that the lady in that photo is your mother. She looks so young. I'm sure it is the happiness she was feeling that made her look so beautiful. It must be soothing to know that your family made her so happy.

MargB said...

I love this wonderful story and photo. Emotionally wonderful embroidery??? That is food for thought!

Barbara C said...

A wonderful photo and a great question. I think my Madonna quilts are my most emotionally true works. I really try to balance content and form in these pieces. I feel like I'm speaking from both my head and my heart when I make these quilts.

Sea Dream Studio said...

Susan~ What abeautiful photo and heartwarming story! Thank you for sharing this tender moment!
Tha nks, also, for visiting my blog.
McKinney is north of Dallas. The old downtown is charming... lots of shops and resturants. It is called The Square. My items are in a shop called Market Square.
Have a safe trip and a Happy Thanksgiving!

Freda Butler said...

Hi Susan

This story about your parent's 50th. anniversery really brought a few tears. It was very touching to me.

Harv and I will be married 50 years next summer and our 3 children keep asking what kind of party we would like and I keep saying I will be so happy just to have my whole family around us with no other fuss. Hope we are all still here and it ends up that way.

I really enjoy your work and reading your blog.



coral-seas said...

I love the idea of emotionally perfect embroidery. I can think of a few of your pieces that fit the bill, especially you BJP pieces.

For me it is my Flutterbys. Even though I had not heard the expression at the time and I was striving to achieve the best I could technically, the emotion was the driving force behind every stitch.

You are also a master at emotionally perfect blogging.


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