ARI DENISON one camera, one lens, one year

Live with an image

Note: This is a deeply personal post. If you're uncomfortable with a little public soul-searching I suggest you skip this one and move on to the next.

On an overcast morning I borrowed Shaun's Mamiya 645, loaded it with some film and took a walk with Cevan. I have always loved the 645 format for some reason. It creates and image more usable than 35mm, but it's not as slow and cumbersome in the field as 6x7.

The campus was huge, sitting atop bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. There were plenty of places to explore but we were just strolling. Talking as much as moving. It was an easy day, no pressure from school or work hanging over my head.

Cevan was way out of my league. One of those magnificent people you cross paths with a few times in life who seem like they are from another world–magnetic, intelligent, exceptionally talented. She wore black from head to toe and kept an anarchistic rabbit in her apartment who chewed through every cable and wire in sight. She was a sculptor and made high-backed chairs with torch and iron. Cool stuff. Cool girl. Bad timing.

I wasn't ready for her.

I fiddled with the tunnel-like viewfinder of the Mamiya while she stood at the threshold of a large barn door. She held still for a single 1/30 of a second exposure and we moved on. We were in no rush, but it felt nice to match the flow of our movement with our conversation.

The image works for me. Not simply because the composition works, or that I am so fond of the subject, but because the image tells a story that I'm familiar with.

No matter the opportunities presented to me, or the adventure waiting just outside the door I stayed the shadows. I convinced myself there was beauty in the darkness because my life experience taught me that things were worse when I was noticed.

Not without reason I believed the world was nothing but perilous, that no-one could be trusted, and that those who you should trust are the most likely to break you. Or worse, ignore you. I learned I had to build myself into something that couldn't be hurt. In this pursuit many tactics were employed, none particularly healthy. Or friendly. I convinced myself it was better to hide, or at least be someone else. To this day I genuinely do not care what people think of me.

I'm not sure that's a good thing.

And that's what this image is to me, a reminder of who I was at that moment, and what I missed out on. Not just more time with an amazing person, though she really was out of my league, but dozens of opportunities I squandered, and people I successfully didn't become friends with. An entire life that got away from me.

I like to think I'm in a better place now.

And I am. My wife of 12 years is also way out of my league, an absolute rock star of a human being. I plot endlessly to spend as much time with her as possible. We have kids who are brilliant and hilarious and so much more incredible than I imagined. A roof over our heads, interesting work, and only normal fear and angst to keep us up at night. Things could be worse.

What gets me about all of this, about photography, is that I don't often know the significance of an image when I trip the shutter. It only becomes clear after spending time with an image, contextualizing it and working to bring out its best. Only after all of this will the meaning become clear. It's why I love film photography in particular. Working with film is slow, romantic and full of anticipation and discovery–the way life should be.

Film Photography Context Mamiya Cevan

Prints are not available for this image.