The same and not the same

The same and not the same

Zanmi Lasante, Cange, Haiti. 2009

Zanmi Lasante, Cange, Haiti. 2009


Lake Cheston, Sewanee, TN. October 23, 2013

The fear of infinity, or ultimately, a genetic incapacity to comprehend the infinite, probably leads us to create god. At the same time, the capacity to be pluralistic, to be ‘fuzzy’ may ultimately help us evolve to a point where the infinite is simply a part of what we are.

I think that is why I make the same photograph. No matter what it is ‘of’, it is ‘about’ the same thing. And many other photographers, poets, musicians, have felt this about their work – a leit motif, a meta theme, an infatuation. A way of fuzzing around, up and down, back and forth but continuing along the same overall trajectory.

And at the same time, we take risks. We occasionally make quantum leaps, seem to function at an unnerving tangent to the overall trajectory… until it is seen in a more cosmic context, and then, hello, it is just another fuzz in the leit motif.

I am still thinking about  Mike Chisholm‘s observation of the ‘I Have gone’  book (see the comments at the end of this post – and once more, thank you Mike, for a fantastic nudge!), and how it may connect to the Haiti work.

This is part of the Preface to a collection of essays about chemistry, and living, by Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffman, titled ‘The Same And Not The Same‘:
“In this book I argue that chemistry is interesting… [and it] derives from an inherent tension. Each fact or process of the science , and the way these are viewed, is in precarious balance between polar extremes. And the polarities of substances and their transformations resonate with forces deep in our psyche….

“That a reasonable human being can be ambivalent about chemicals, seeing in them both harm and benefit, is not a sign of irrationality, but of humanity. Utility and danger are two poles of a duality. Any fact in our world is evaluated, often subconsciously, by our wonderfully rational and irrational mind, in terms of such polarities. Only if one is dead to experience does one fail to ask the dual question – “can it help me?” / “Can it hurt me?” Asking that question endows the object of the query, the “it”, with a kind of life. It is linked to you. The tension of the object being harmful, or harmless, or maybe both, makes it interesting. The etymology of “interest” is from inter and esse, to be in between. The tension of asking the question and struggling with the answer links the material and spiritual worlds.” 

Artists  (think of this in the broadest sense, so I include scientists too) have an imperative to look at sameness from as many vantages as possible, and perhaps also from as many opposing vantage points, for the very reasons that Hoffman suggests. To be interested is to live in dualities, to be the same and not the same. To be interested may be the key to really, truly, finding god, or, dare I say, the god gene, and transcending it. Perhaps that is why I make the same photograph, not matter where, and when, and of what– and that is why it is not the same photograph.

[Okay, I know, this is a post that is really out there….]

Canon 5D MKII, EF 35mm 1.4L USM lens, post processed in Lightroom

Leica M, Summilux 35mm lens, post processed in Lightroom