about hands that has the capacity to make my mouth water. Tonight, as I sat by a friend as he played a song on the piano, I was mesmerized; as much by his hands as by the music they made. They rolled effortlessly across the keys, without thought or direction … simply playing. I couldn’t look away and wished for my tripod and a light. I wanted to capture that moment, but I didn’t want it enough to risk losing the magic. I was surrounded by those powerful notes, feeling them touch my skin as they were absorbed into my blood, my bones, my thoughts; that is not something I would risk losing, even for a photograph.
The hands of an artist are mysterious and intriguing. My art teacher has the ability to practically breathe an image onto a page. Each time I go to class, I stop and stare at a portrait he drew. The realism of it makes me shudder as it evokes precise images of a very frightening movie. I fully expect the portrait to come to life and say, in a menacing, crazy-man’s voice, “Heeere’s Johnny!”. But, I digress. The hands. The permanent ink spot on the finger, the darker shade on the pinkie edge, the way one lies flat on the table while the other draws; I sometimes find myself distracted by his hands and forget to pay as close attention as I mean to. I want to photograph those hands, but it isn’t the time. There will come a time. I need to. And I will. When it’s time.
The hands that hold the hammer are strong and sure, yet gentle enough to bottle-feed a newborn lamb. Those hands would belong to my Daddy. He and I didn’t see eye to eye for way too much of my life. I was too soft-hearted to hold my own against such a strong personality and sense of self. I perplexed him, I think, more than anything. At some point in my adult life, we became close; close the way I always wished it would be. It was then that I started noticing his hands. More often than not they were cut and bleeding, the fingers and palms thick with callouses from years of hard work. I have taken many photographs of his hands, have managed to fade in to the background and work, unnoticed, as he does what he does. Working, praying, fishing, gardening. I have hundreds and each time I look at one, I am reminded of the love and strength in them.
There are others’ I wish to see, to photograph. Some of them are musicians, others not. I do find, though, that the musicians and artists have a greater pull to me as their hands are a part of what they create. Just as my eyes are essential instruments to my photography, so are their hands in the paintings they paint and symphonies they play.
Photographing hands is an ethereal experience for me. It is sometimes heartbreaking, the emotion that they invoke. Knowing that I am close enough to that which I seek, to see it clearly through the lens of my camera, is the kind of moment I hope for. I know, when I no longer notice that there is a body attached to the hands, then it is time.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men ~ Romans 12:18