Saturday, January 16, 2010

365/15 Gordian Knot

“Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot, which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie”

Jean Cocteau

I have this fascination knots lately. Well, not so much lately; I've had it for a few years now. I find that they're an interesting puzzle, both in formulation and decomposition. Coming upon a new knot just feeds the inner geek in me. It's a challenge to be presented with something new, something that must be figured out, something that must be undone, and something that must be rebuilt in the same way to undergo a complete understanding of it.

Now, knots have a curious tendency to work differently depending upon the medium under which they are tied and intricately woven. Take this rope, for example. There are two kinds here, both natural fibers. Jute, the natural color and hemp, the red and blues. They each have their certain interesting qualities, one of which is that they both hold a knot well. They have bite, something by which a knot's ability to hold fast to depends heavily upon. Jute is scratchy. It sheds. It's rough against the skin. Hemp, on the other hand, is heavier. Denser. To me, it's softer than jute. And there's a different smell to each. Jute reminds me of freshly cut grass.

But how is this important to photography?

Rope lets me play with puzzles, much like photography does. Understanding the way light maneuvers and positions itself upon a surface is something that one must play with like a Rubik's cube. You must get your hands upon it, twist it, push it, pull it, cover it up, and understand the way it moves in order to line up the way you want it to.

But, like knots and rope, light is funny. You think it's easy at first because you can directly see the manipulation. And then, it gets subtle. Like, when you layer light upon a scene. One light, one layer, one direction, one depth. Two lights ... added detail and quality. Subtle. Three? You're talking about the beginnings of a knot that can put Gordius to shame. Especially if you have no understanding of light and don't know the mechanics by which it works. Same thing with knots: if you have no understanding of the bight, the bend, the loop, the line, then it becomes difficult to unravel a rope with just a mental map of the outer layers of the knot.

One thing is certain: like knots, the more you play with light, the easier it becomes to manipulate and fold it to your needs.

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