I keep taking this picture. I don't know how many times it's been now, and most of them I don't keep, but I still keep taking it.
Lately I've been worrying that I've begun to repeat myself photographically, like maybe I've run out of things to say. I've been frustrated because I think it's true. And yet I still can't stop myself from taking this picture.
I keep hearing that an artist--especially a photographer, and especially a photographer who takes pictures of his own family--needs to avoid sentimentality. And I think that's true, so maybe I'm not much of an artist. Maybe I never will be. Would that be OK with me? I think it should be, but I suspect it might not. Either way, I can't not take this picture.
At some point I won't be able to take this picture anymore, because he'll be old enough to bathe himself. And then because he'll be grown up and gone from the house. I take this picture over and over again because I can't help being overwhelmed by how beautiful it is, and I suppose because I'm aware of how little time I have left to take it.
I had a reviewer tell me once that photographs--artistic photographs, anyway--needed to be about more than making memories permanent, and I agree. I tell myself that I have loftier reasons for taking pictures: that a story shared can be transformative for both the listener and the speaker; that photography is my way of working through and understanding the experiences of my life, experiences that are both personal and universal; that I simply want to make something beautiful and put it into the world. And maybe all that is true. I hope it is. But I think maybe I really take pictures because my life goes by so fast, and I need to slow it down, to give myself something to hold onto.
Is that a good enough reason? It's good enough to keep me doing it. But maybe it's not enough to make me the kind of artist I'd like to be. I don't know why I care about that--I think I ought to know, but so far it's been too much to get my arms around.
But, whatever. It's a nice picture. Juliette will like it. It's enough.