Shades of blue light
I shared a bus ride in Ireland once with a French man who carried more photo equipment than clothing. It was 1979 and the bus ran local stops up into Donegal from Killybegs. I was on my way to a little town called Glencolumkille, where I’d spent a timeless week in a cottage with six other itinerants. I was on a quiet pilgrimage of my own this time. There was a sheep herders’ hut on an isolated field that jutted out beyond the bogs above the ocean and I planned to camp out there for a while.
I fashioned myself an artist then. Not even that, really. I just wanted someone to think that I was an artist, so that all the time I spent scribbling in my notebook and picking out tunes on my saxophone could amount to something more than just things that I did. After all, how did you acquire an identity if you couldn’t have external artifacts?
So, I was impressed when the Frenchman got on. He had blond hair, stained fingers, a vest filled with pouches, film canisters and light meters. We made conversation, a little French, a little English. I asked him what he was travelling for.
The perfect light, he said.
There was a light in Ireland that came as the sun moved around the horizon, at dawn, or sunset, a light that you couldn’t find anywhere else in the world. He’d seen it once when he was young and had waited all his life to come back and photograph it.
The image captivated me. I looked for the light and felt like I’d seen it sometimes. I wondered how you could grab it on film, because it was such a three-dimensional thing, that light, that enveloped you and soothed more than just your sense of sight.
I’m surprised sometimes when I take a photo and find that light in it. These two photos are from the Bahamas.