• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
I Push Buttons as Some Push Brooms

I Push Buttons as Some Push Brooms

I push buttons as some push brooms.
But, my job is not merely to push the button.
Anyone can push the button.

My job is to know when and why to push the button
in the decisive moment
at the right location
in the perfect light. . .

I must see the world
understand relationship
be a keen observer 
read clouds, wind, minds.

I must earn trust, unequivocal trust
break the ice, then disappear,
click, done, like magic.

Decades behind one moment,
but the moment 
creates memories and 
memories make the world,
make the stories.
Memories make us.

Great stories take guts
A mediocre tale flows like honey from the tongue, 
falls like over-ripe fruit from the tree.

A great story requires patience, honesty, practice
Courage to say, “This is not working.”
I’m so sorry. 
I thought that would be great but I messed it up. 
May I try again?”
Guts to go the extra mile.
Guts to be vulnerable.

Failure is disarming.

The flaw makes the frame.
Failure is the secret sauce.

Imperfect is infinitely more perfect than perfect.

Push the button in the split-second when 
posture and control melt into humanity,
like the French boy, wine in hand, 
dancing his way home from the market, 
full of joie de vivre. 
Not tall, not handsome, not beautiful — 
but completely, utterly joyful, 
human, alive!

Henri Cartier Bresson

I do offer notes of advice. 
What should I wear? 
Wear what you wore yesterday morning. 
Wear the outfit when the girl at the office gave you a compliment
and your fiancé gave you a sly wink. 
Don’t overthink.

Be comfortable, be confident. . .be yourself.
I can alter flaws, but I cannot photoshop confidence. 
I cannot make you someone else. 

In the end, it’s not even about appearance. . .
It’s about Being, Presence, Life!
Transcendent moments, 
of beauty, light and love, 
when all disappears into wind,
water, and emotion, when I
shoot through happy tears
in the falling twilight. 
This moment is perfect. 
If I cry when I push the button,
You will cry when you see the picture. 
That is assured.

After we finish our moments together, 
more button-pushing begins. 
Muscle memory takes control
I don’t acknowledge workflow, 
it just happens as it has some 10 million times before. 
40 hours a week for 15 years.
Smooth, clone, straighten, light, shadow, sharpen, technicolor dream world, layers, histograms, retouch.

Journalists would say
to use photoshop is image manipulation, 
I say, nothing involving humanity 
is manipulation-free. 
Journalists manipulate before taking the picture, 
choosing story and subject, 
based on the wishes of an editor, 
who obeys the wishes of the political tides 
or the billionaire company owner 
or the environmentalist group funding the story.

The nearsighted journalist is a nomad, 
finding beauty in anyone and in no one.
Take the picture, wander on
submit to the publication, wander on. 
He has no obligation to the person in his photograph. . .
He thinks he serves “humanity” with “objectivity.”

Don’t be deceived that objectivity can or should 
be achieved in photography.

Honor should be reserved for those special few 
who have the guts to follow the heart where a story leads. . .
to set aside objectivity for the greater purpose — 
pursuit of shared humanity. 
Such storytellers forget the money, 
forget the danger, 
forget the editor,
forget objectivity,
know only truth — 
not only their personal truth,
but the truth of their subject — 
and sacrifice all to uncover it. . .

I want to be one of these brave photographers when I grow up.
I try, daily, to grow up.

I alter memories, 
not for the sake of fiction,
but to the end of showing human eyes
what images indwell the mind.

It is a different thing entirely
to make eyes believe in magic the mind has already seen.

Eyes see the world, but neurons choose what is actually noticed. 
It’s part science, part alchemy, 
most of all, survival in a busy world.

I see a sheep, I see a tiger. 
Which one makes me run?
Remember the man in the gorilla suit
hiding in plain view?

Heaven forbid we think our eyes are rational, objective.
We see what we must see, what we are trained to see.

In my work, I choose to see what we desire to see. 
I preserve pivotal memories. 
Blushing brides in white dresses. . . 
Every groom sees his her and thinks she is the most beautiful girl in the world — and each groom is right! 
Beauty is not objective, it is in the eye of the beholder. 
I push the button to see what he sees when she walks down the aisle. . .
to see what she sees, when she glances in the mirror and realizes she has transformed from little girl into a princess. 
I push the button because the mind will move on, 
like a flash of lightning in a spring storm, 
but memory will yearn for an anchor in the years ahead.

This picture is not only for them — 
it is for their descendents,
children and grandchildren,
that they might say, “This is who I am.
Look what love created me!”

I shape the identity 
of people yet unborn.

I push buttons as some push brooms,
but I know the reason why. 
This is the sacred honor 
to my daily work.

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