Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Living In the Margins


Sometimes life seems more exciting and rewarding when lived in the margins - the margins between what is generally perceived as "right" and "wrong", or "Good" and "bad" or even "acceptable" and "unacceptable". The boundary defined by the ying and the yang. The art and skill is to never cross over to what is truly unacceptable.

During my working career there were many times when I was living and working in the margin that exists between night and day. It was during the interlude between the silence of the night and the breaking of a new dawn, that thoughts seemed clearer and the senses heightened.

It was often working on a night shift that I appreciated the simplicity and relative silence that the night brought to life. Just as appreciated and welcomed were the sounds of awakening day. There is something about a sun rise - the promise and optimism of another day - a fresh tablet upon which nothing has been written and awaits the recording of new chronicles.

Photography can be the same. Some of the more interesting and provocative photographs are taken in the margins - the time when the sun is rising or setting.

These are from my trip to China - predawn photos - the time where the differences between night and day become apparent as well as accentuated.

The photos were taken in Yangshuo, China. I was standing on the highway bridge over the famous Li River. I had gotten up at 4:00 A.M. to be in position on the bridge for the sun rise. I was on the bridge with 14 other photographers that I was travelling with in late October. I picked my spot and set up the tripod in eager anticipation of the breaking dawn. Although it was chilly it was great to stand in the silence and then to hear the chickens, and dogs waking up to greet the new day. Soon after the animals awoke, people started to stir - first with raspy coughs, and then with the sounds of staring the kitchen fires to prepare the day's first meal. Soon fishing boats or rather fishing rafts with fishermen and cormorants appeared almost mystically out of the last wisps of darkness over the flat river.


One of my colleagues called out to me to join them at their location nearer to the end of the bridge. I politely declined at first but when pressed I became more adamant. It was then in the breaking light of a promising new dawn that I realized that I had travelled thousands of miles to take MY photographs and not someone elses!

Right or wrong - I had chosen to take my photographs, my way, from my selected location.

Just as I have during much of my life, I wanted to enjoy the opportunities of that morning as well all my mornings on my own terms. I was happy and content. I was prepared to live with the consequences of my decision.


It was in the margins of that day between the closing of the night and opening of the day that I realized and reaffirmed one of my core values. In the clarity of the margin, I was at peace.

Later in life the memory of that chilly experience would help guide me through other life altering decisions.

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