Don’t Look At the Light (Common Sense)


What a silly thing to say to a photographer!

“Don’t look at the light!”

Word zipped around the construction site.  With the welder working his magic, the seasoned veterans expressed concern to the juniors. Stories traveled, quickly, tersely, between saw cuts and cigarette exhales about coworkers gone blind too young, or cataract surgery at thirty.

And if I ignored the light, ignored the moment when light welded the “moment frame” of our structure, that essential detail — where would my story end? How could I say I had learned something about steel fabrication, if I failed to capture this moment?

The refrain repeated throughout John Irving’s “The Hotel New Hampshire” bubbled up from my unconscious, an attempt at self-protection:

Keep passing the open windows.

Capture the image. Preserve the ability to capture another one another day.  I prefocussed, used a small aperture, and framed the shot when John wasn’t welding.  I didn’t need to look through the lens to capture the moment.  I looked away. I listened for the pop of the torch igniting, the scent of incinerated iron.

I took my shot when the others turned their heads.

We are each drawn to things that endanger us.

Light draws me.

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