Madness + Magnum Photos Workshop


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I recently read an essay “Darkness Visible” by William Styron that has the same title as his memoir in which he wrote about his struggle with depression (or ‘melancholia’ as he would prefer to call it) and how he emerged from it. I often find it hard to read a long article online as my attention tends to drift after a while. In this instance,  the writing was excellent and his account so gripping that I was almost holding my breath at some passages.

There were several interesting observations or comments that he made in this essay, one of which that stuck with me: Never let it be doubted that depression, in its extreme form, is madness.

While on the train from Brussels to Heidelberg for the Magnum Photos workshop last Thursday, I started reading What is Madness? by Darian Leader. In between eating homemade sandwiches while listening to classical music that was softly playing from a fellow passenger’s radio and gazing at cumulonimbus clouds in the distance while travelling through the Belgian countryside, I didn’t get too far into the book. But from what little I’ve read, I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Quite recently too, someone introduced a poem by Edward Thomas to me. I haven’t read much poetry as I’ve always had the (wrong) impression that poems are too complex and the few half-hearted, rushed attempts I had made in the past didn’t get me very far. Not surprisingly.

ADLESTROP
Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Thomas’ Adlestrop is beautiful. Even reading it, for the first time, on the tiny Blackberry screen didn’t take away any of its magic. Come to think about it, that I was reading it in the dark in my bedroom may have helped me focus and better imagine the scene.

My thoughts are a little all over the place tonight…

It all started with me thinking about the above photo while in the shower. I took it in Heidelberg, in a former cigar factory where some of the unused machines have been kept in a storage area. While this might not be the best photo that I took during the workshop, it has stuck with me since the moment I pressed the shutter.

I took this on the second day of shooting, while taking my time exploring, climbing around and squeezing between machines. It had been a cloudy day and being indoors, behind dusty windows, I hadn’t taken note of the outside. I was pottering around a machine when I looked up – the sun was setting and the light that came through the windows was just incredible. What luck! Next thought: I was happy I followed Chien-Chi‘s advice to slow down as I wouldn’t have discovered new perspectives nor would I have hung around long enough to see this moment.

Viewing this photo on the computer later, I noticed that the lamp looks like it was suspended in mid-air due to the shadow of a window beam on the wire. A broken light, which in turn reminded me of madness.

Anyway, enough rambling for tonight. I think I’ll go read some more of “What is Madness?”
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Categories: Books, PhotographyTags: , , , , ,

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