I loved Michiko Kakutani’s wonderful article about Obama the reader, Obama the writer, as he prepares to leave the White House. There was much about the piece that moved me, but it’s this line I can’t stop thinking about:
He has a writer’s sensibility — an ability to be in the moment while standing apart as an observer
I read that and stopped. I read it again. And again. I started to crying. I’ve written ad nauseum about my fierce desire to be here now. I’ve also written, over and over again, about the sense I have inside my own life of being slightly removed, of having my nose pressed against a window as I watch things happening through it. I am the official photographer, after all. But I’ve been thinking through the implications of that bias, that role, for many years.
I am trying to be here, and I am resolutely outside.
Can these things coexist?
By the way, I’m not saying I’m comparing myself to Obama. I’m also not calling myself a writer. But that sentence stopped me in my tracks, because I want so dearly to be in the moment, but I also recognize that I am often standing apart. Am I trying to thread an impossible needle, reconcile two fundamentally opposed goals? Or can I be both?
I don’t plan to stop trying to be here now, to stop trying to release the claim the past and future make on my present. But maybe it’s a relief to honor the difficulty I have with that: maybe it’s part of my wiring.
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