Through a Jungian Lens

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It’s Not All Black and White

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I took this photo almost forty years ago.  Somehow, a lot of my negatives from that time period were lost to poor storage or simply because I moved house too often.  Time had a way of reducing the quality of the negatives poorly stored.  I have to admit that when I was younger, the need to “archive” my photos and negatives was not the highest of priorities.  I took photos and printed out those that meant something and that seemed good enough.  Yet, in spite of all of the deficits of youth, something remains that has value in the present.

I have been spending some time digitizing the negatives that were rescued.  Obviously there are “family” and “event” photos that be eventually placed in their correct position in the archives along with digitized colour photos that have been collecting in books and boxes over the four decades.  But, the photos that are catching my eye are those that don’t quite “fit” into these archives.  Why did I take them?  What did I see then?  Is there anything in these old photos that can find a place in a new archive of photos that don’t “fit” into the family and event photo archives?

This photo makes the cut for me for a new archive.  Though it might also be a candidate for “family” archives, it definitely has archetypal value that goes beyond the unique family that includes the two individuals in the photo.  And that, is what I look for in making choices of what to keep.

This photo talks to me of the “feminine” as well as “mother.”  This could be any woman, any mother.  At least, that is how I see the photo.  Yet as soon as I made this distinction, this determination I challenged myself with the use of the words feminine and mother.  Do I really know what either word means?  Mother is something I can say I understand experientially as I have been mothered, born to a woman who then proceeded to care for me in her way.  Feminine?  I am not so sure.  I think I know what that means, but that is about as far as I can go with the word.

I wonder if there is a need for distinction between masculine and feminine.  Does such a distinction ever offer any positive value?  I think of the extremes of patriarchal power and matriarchal power and see “harm” in either version.  Is there any need to differentiate gender in terms of “characteristics” and “qualities” and “tendencies?”  But yet, I know that men and women are different, that male and female are different.  Besides and obviously physical difference (not so obvious at times for some for whom physical lines seem to be blurred), what is it that sets men and women apart?  I am asking these questions because of how Jung has used the masculine and the feminine in trying to arrive at a state of wholeness for the human psyche.  As for answers, I am too busy thinking of the questions at this point.  For now, all I can say is that it isn’t time for me to have an answer.  For me, it isn’t all black and white.

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