Through a Jungian Lens

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Behind the Camera Lens

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Another photograph of a photographer.  I have to admit it wasn’t the only such photo taken in WuZhen.  I’ve done some thinking, after the fact, and have come to the conclusion that such photos are pseudo self-portraits, a way of looking at one’s self.  Just in case anyone is wondering, no, this isn’t a photo of me.  My coat is blue and my umbrella is a checkered blue and black affair.  Those two facts aside, yes, I do hold both umbrella and camera much as this man does when taking photos on rainy days.

In a way, it is a bit unnerving to see oneself in action, especially when the action is slightly dissociated and silent, set off from the others though not set aside.  There is a relationship between the photographer and his or her subjects regardless if the subjects are animate or inanimate.  There really is no fully objective distance in spite of what the photographer thinks.  How often do I have my subjects looking at me as I take the photos?  When I look at the photos afterwards, I can still feel their connection, their attention to my presence in spite of the camera that could be used as a screen to hide behind.

As I think more about this, I see that it isn’t only in taking photos that I see myself as separate from others, an interested and mostly silent observer.  This is how I co-exist with my world whether it is in the classroom with my university students or at a family gathering or wandering down some narrow street or watery canal in a foreign country.  That which is “me,” a private sense of self, is tucked away behind the scenes while I use an array of varying personae which I use to suit the occasion and the situation.  For example, in my university classes, my students get to see a humorous and active teacher who is more about using a theatrical presence as a teaching style than about elucidating on academics that must be memorized or internalized depending upon the tasks at hand.  There is a lot of laughter in the classroom.  Yet, once outside of the classroom, the extravert is given a rest and a quiet person emerges, one who is content with being closer to the edge.  Sometimes others would see me as aloof or perhaps even a bit of a cold fish.

The truth lies behind the various masks that I put on throughout the days and weeks in family and community.  And that truth is vividly captured in this photo.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

March 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Robert,
    I feel as though you are tempting me these days. Your posts seem to draw me. I apologize for this need of mine to respond. Todays post reminds me of what Jung described in MDR about possessing a secret and how the possession of a secret formed his boyhood and life. Something from Nietzsche gives some data about the need to hide, to isolate in order to protect the sanctuary the isolation the possession of the secret provides:

    “Everything profound loves the mask. . . It is not the worst things of which one is most ashamed: there is not only deceit behind a mask – there is so much goodness in cunning. I could believe that a man who had something fragile and valuable to conceal might roll through life thick and round as an old green thick-hooped wine barrel: the refinement of his shame would have it so. A man whose shame has depth, encounters his destinies and delicate decisions too on paths which very few ever reach and of whose existence his intimates and neighbors may not know: his mortal danger is concealed from their eyes, as is the fact that he has regained his sureness of life. . . .”
    F. Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil,” p. 51

    John Ferric

    March 29, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    • John, that is the point, to tempt someone, you, another, to enter into the spaces and places I create here through images and words. And, in the process, spontaneously create something out of what appears to be nothing but words and images.


      April 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm

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