The Photographer as Illusionist

I just finished reading a magical book: Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It's one of those novels which transports one to a dream world where things feel comfortable and foreign at the same time. It was a dream from which I didn't want to wake, and sometimes I feel I still haven't. I will not go into detail about this fine book here (plenty has already been written about it) but I do want to say that it got me thinking on many, many levels.

I just finished reading a magical book: Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It's one of those novels which transports one to a dream world where things feel comfortable and foreign at the same time. It was a dream from which I didn't want to wake, and sometimes I feel I still haven't. I will not go into detail about this fine book here (plenty has already been written about it) but I do want to say that it got me thinking on many, many levels.

This photograph seemed eminently appropriate for this post. First of all, we have the magician/illusionist. But since this was made at the cabalistic House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI it felt more than "right" for a post discussing Erin Morgenstern's book, The Night Circus."

One of those levels pertains to photography and photographers.

Throughout the book, we are challenged to consider the artifice and reality of illusion. As I tripped my shutter over the past few days, this concept rattled around in my head. Then in a moment of realization, I saw the photographer as an illusionist. We see the world around us. We interpret it through our unique filters and aesthetic. We then present it back to the world transformed yet the same. Every time we make a photograph, we create an illusion of the subject which is a wholly singular presentation of it. Certainly, no two photographs can ever be the same because no two photographs can ever be taken at precisely the same moment in time. But more importantly, no two photographs can ever be the same because they are necessarily unique constructs of the individual photographers making the images. One of my favorite things to do is go on a photo walk with other photographers. We walk the same paths. We see the same sights. But when we look at our final images it is as if we weren't even in the same zip code. What feels familiar in my photographs looks oddly foreign in my friends'.

In short, every time we make photographs we create our own illusions. We conjure them from slices of time and sprinklings of light. They are our achievements. They carry our stamp and signature.

So even though The Night Circus is not a book about photography, it is a book about the way our illusions--our creations--relate to us and the world around us. It is about the many paths we take to get to them. It is about our dreams manifest.

To learn more about The Night Circus, please check out Erin Morgenstern's website at erinmorgenstern.com.