Essay

Spiderwebs and the Ghost of John Shaw

I’m sharing this image because for 20 years I have wanted to get a pretty image of a spider web!  Before I even knew what a big role photography would play in my life I happened across a book of John Shaw’s on nature photography. I was supposed to be doing something else – studying for the GRE in fact –  but it was summer, I was in Boulder and I went browsing book stores and trails. I stumbled across that book by accident or providence and in that book was, and I imagine still is, a wonderful shot of a dew covered spider web. I can still remember it very very well. It’s beautiful and with a smooth lovely green background, perfect really.

So, every time I have ever gone out to photograph spider webs I had this image of John Shaw’s stuck in my head. You know what happened? Nothing – as in I never once got a shot of a spider web that I, Brenda Berry liked. Why? First of all because technically it’s quite difficult to accomplish ( more on that in the next post, where I will show you the process), but more important, I wasn’t looking for Brenda’s spider web because I was so hopelessly hung up on someone else’s.

My point? You can only create what is yours, whether it be a song, a poem, a painting or a photograph. There is such a thing as the authentic voice, and you need to find and honor yours. We all do. Creating the image is only half of it.  Learning good technique is necessary but only the start – technique is only the tool to let you express what you see. And by see, I do not mean what your eye balls happen to fall upon.

Here is one of my favorite quotes. (I am very big on quotes lately. A lot of smart people have said a lot of smart things, and I can only remember them in very small chunks, but I digress) From the pen of no less than Thoreau:

[quote text_size=”medium” author=”Henry David Thoreau” author_title=”Journal, 5 August 1851″]

It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see that matters..

[/quote ]

Photography is my way of sharing what it is that I, Brenda Berry see. You need to show the world what you see.  At last I have looked, and truly seen my own pretty spider web. Not a darn thing like Mr. Shaw’s, not better, not worse, not perfect, but good enough, and all mine.  20 years later, free at last my own web of perfection seeking; and you know what? I quite like it. And, just for the record – I still like John Shaw’s too.

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