Thursday, May 7, 2009

Editing Life

In a college poetry class we wrote observations and shared in class weekly. Mine shared common situations from new angles, imagining dimensions, telling keenly observed stories of people I don't know, as if I knew them intimately
My teacher commented that I often told stories the people I spoke of wouldn't feel flattered by, that they could sometimes be interpreted as harsh. (Bummer) "But," she said "you obviously love them, and your work has a warm human compassionate quality that says you have a high view of humanity."

Uh...Thank you? It doesn't sound like the surest way to become popular.

I'd forgotten that until I recently took photos at my church's annual women's retreat. I sent a message to a friend I had photographed in a really beautiful contemplative mood. I honestly thought she looked ravishing! Her spirit was right on the surface. Then this week I overheard her discomfort over the angle. She hated that photo. From some of the comments, the rawness of some of the pictures also took others by surprise. I didn't intend to shock, just document.

So here's the dilemma: Because people are unintentionally not flattered, is it wrong? I celebrate life; joy, pain, unguarded, sloppy, beautiful, luscious life. 

Is the good and the bad of it a difference of perspective or truth? 

How much value is there in presenting people's good sides, and things they like, and how much value is there in presenting life as it is? 

How much of life should we edit in art?

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