Painting By Camera
by Marcia Smilack
I photograph reflections on moving water. I collaborate with Nature to create images I call Paintings by Camera. I use the surface of the sea as my canvas, borrow the seasonal colors for my palette, and rely on the wind for my brushes. I have only one chance to capture an image before it morphs into another, so I am at the mercy of whatever Nature decides to give me that day. I am like a fisherman who goes looking for the place where the blues are running, or the yellows, or the reds; and the images I reel in are always a surprise which is how I like it.
People often ask if I manipulate the water but why would I when the whole point is to be surprised? The thrill for me is to leave my house without a clue of what I will find when I put on my eyes that day. Manipulating the water would take away the element of discovery which would, in turn, make the Art go away. For a similar reason, I never manipulate the image after I take an image either.
The way I taught myself photography is to shoot when I hear a chord of color, which is one of my Synesthetic responses to what I see. I knew nothing about photography at the time so decided to just trust what I hear in my mind’s eye. I use my Synesthetic responses as reliable signals that tell me when to take a picture — at the moment that the color I am staring at creates the sound of cello, for example, which for me is not a metaphor but rather the way I perceive the world. The name for this phenomenon is Synesthesia, but I was twenty-five years old before I heard that word or understood that everyone does not perceive the world as I do.
I hear with my eyes and see with my ears.
The first note I played on the piano was green. I was quite young that special day whereas I was an adult the day I realized I experience color-sound Synesthesia in both directions. Some of the other Synesthetic responses I use to create my artwork include texture, motion and taste. For instance, I take pictures when what I am looking at produces the sensation of satin against my skin, the sensation of dancing, or the taste of ice cream.
I dream many images before I actually see them on the water. I often feel like a reporter from the Collective Unconscious. I stand poised at the edge of a floating tableau of reflections that pass by whether anyone notices them or not. Collected, these archetypal images form a universal alphabet. Tide to tide, the sea’s mirrored surface washes up to and over the sea-land barrier like a cerebral moat, as if the universe is dreaming. And while reflected images, like dreams, cannot be repeated, unlike dreams they can be recorded. I go fishing for archetypes and the catch that I bring home — the dreams of the universe — belongs to us all.