Strange word Imagery. It conjures up so many different thoughts in my head. It started this morning with my son sending me a link to Natalie d'Arbeloff's facebook page on which she showed a recent portrait she had painted. (you may remember I recently bought 'Diego', my latest acquisition, from her some weeks ago). I don't know the sitter but I can say with certainty that she has managed to capture 'the man'. Do we know more about him than we would from a photograph? I think so but I can't put into words exactly why it is so.
I have books and books full of holiday photographs and looking at them brings back memories - may be 'as it was', maybe not. Our minds play tricks on us with photographs.
Sitting here with a group of friends yesterday afternoon, chatting about 'this' and 'that' I spoke of one image that has stuck in my mind - recent enough to conjure up easily but in the years to come - like all such images - it will pop into my mind at odd moments when I am probably least expecting it - triggered off by some little comment or - in this particular instance probably seeing a Red Admiral butterfly.
Sitting in a friends garden on a Summer's day - in the middle of the lawn stands a Victoria plum tree laden with ripe plums which now and then are ripe enought to fall off onto the lawn. Dozens lie on the lawn, dozens remain on the tree. The warm sun is shining and we are relaxing together. Almost every plum has a Red Admiral butterly on it - a butterfly probably 'heady' with an overfill of what seems to be a magnet for it. The tree is full of plums - and Red Admirals too. I would guess hundreds of them. It was a sight for sore eyes - something so marvellous that the image has stayed fresh in my mind. Better than a photograph? I don't know - who is to judge? But I do know that here and now, only perhaps a couple of months after seeing it, the image it conjures up in my mind is more vivid than any photograph and more exciting for want of a better word.
Sitting over breakfast I tried to think of other images that have made a similar impression. I could only think of one or two - The embalmed Chairman Mao on his plinth (no photograph allowed but none necessary - in my youth he was a hero to me -); the sight of a glacier viewed from the air over probably Iceland I would guess - as it made contact with the sea. Seen as we flew to Canada some years ago; the sight of a man carrying wood on his back as he crossed a frozen river in mid winter on a very slow train journey towards Mongolia from Beijing.
My husband photographed him as we crept slowly up a mountain. He painted a picture and as I sit eating my breakfast I am looking at the picture. But the feeling I get from it is somehow not the same as the picture I conjure up when the image suddenly pops into my mind, triggered by something I see on TV, or hear, or am reading about.
So there you have it - today's Thought for the Day. The portrait of the man.
The holiday photograph.
A moment in time captured in the memory without a photograph to back it up.
All have their place.
The portrait delves deep into what the man is really like, tries to give us more about him than a photograph can do.
The photograph - my son has recently sent me a couple of photographs - one where I am sitting with a group of other people - I know them all but have no recollection of this particular group ever being together - and no idea at all of the venue.
The captured moment with the butterflies - to date this memory has much more meaning - but maybe it will fade with time.
They will all tell us something but the butterflies will fade with me, the photograph will fade and the next generation will have no idea at all of who these women sitting on a grassy bank are, the portrait which will survive long after the subject has gone - folk will know who he is if his name appears on the back, but looking at him, because he is so well-painted, we will know at least something about who he really is, what sort of man he is, and we can speculate on his thoughts and feelings. We might be completely wrong but looking at his image makes us want to speculate.