I took a little extra time with this blog post. Rather than write it all in one sitting, I‘ve spent hours in reflection and countless others in thought over the image that will serve as its subject. Now, as I put the pen to paper (I literally hand wrote this post before publishing it here), John Coltrane’s “I’m Old Fashioned” is playing on the turntable. I took an extra few minutes and recorded the song directly from that turntable and have converted it to MP3 below. As I venture into this post, I invite you to press play and experience this moment with me—complete with record pops and whispers. If you might, take a few moments to take a look at the photograph and then read the following reflection.
A few weeks ago I decided to take a day and walk around Vashon Island. Months prior I was taking a stroll over there and noticed an abandoned house marked with a sign declaring it unsafe and uninhabitable. It struck me as ironic that the human-made structure was decaying and labeled unsafe amidst the ever-renewing trees, grass, water, and the rest of the natural world surrounding it. To me, the house appears to be at peace, almost desiring to return to a state where it is the provider of life once again. At first sight I knew I had to make time at some point to photograph that scene. Making that photograph was a secondary goal of this later trip. The first was to enjoy a peaceful day away from the computer.
Although I did capture the house scene it was the image above that I feel I was destined to find. When I got home that night I posted the picture on Facebook with the title “Self Portrait” and was quickly asked by several people why I named it that. After staring at the print and reflecting at length, this is what the photograph means to me:
I feel this image accurately describes my presence in this world. More than a mere reflection in the glass, everything in this photo tells a piece of my story. Firstly, everything is apparent, but nothing is fully resolved and comprehensible. Just as you can tell the dark blob of a human figure is my reflection, the distortion and lack of detail keep you from being completely sure who or what it is. You know that is a newspaper, but what does it say? You can stand right in front of it, but even under close analysis you can only make out a few key pieces of information. I think those who know me might find that a fairly clear depiction—every now and then you’ll get a glimpse of the person underneath. But more often than not, you’re left without the entire story. Authentic, yet not fully understood. I’m working on that—working on allowing more of myself to be read.
Notice the blackberry stem. It is neither attached to the ground nor is it draped from the top. However, it is present. The decaying car represents the death of my old hopes and dreams while the grass represents the emergence of new ones. No longer do I find myself with grandiose dreams of succeeding in the corporate structures as it exists today, but rather finding creative ways to build the organizations of the future—the ones that exist with purpose beyond the bottom line. Even beyond the triple bottom line.
I could continue deconstructing this image further, but I’d like to leave at least some of it to your own interpretation. What do you see in it? What does it mean to you?
About the author
I am an artist and business professional promoting social change through increasing social awareness. I write about business, activism, marketing, creativity, and art. I'd love to be in touch with you. Please find me on Twitter at @michaelbmaine.