To win without risk is to triumph without glory.
~ Pierre Corneille, The Cid
At last, I come to Photo 101’s final theme, “Triumph” — an aptly titled assignment for the last of 20 subjects. Nine of the themes, plus a weekend gallery, are posted on this site, while the other 11 photos can be viewed at sappy as a tree. Since I’m posting “Triumph” weeks after the course ended, I haven’t covered myself in glory. Still, as an amateur photographer equipped with two point-and-shoot cameras and an iPhone, I have taken risks in Photo 101 — not the least of which was posting my photos next to those of professional photographers and artists.
My choice of a winning chess move for “Triumph” indicates the duplicitous nature of photography, something that bothered me in the early days of Photo 101. Just as our words can draw a false reality, so our pictures can create an illusion — now more than ever, with the advances in digital photography and photo editing. Photo 101ers were encouraged to try editing techniques to enhance our photos. And why not, I suppose, as long as the photographs aren’t being used as evidence in a courtroom or as fodder for the tabloids?
Not only in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Poets”
The thing is, I don’t play chess. My older brother taught me the rules years ago. By some lucky chance, I beat him in the first — and last — game of chess that I ever played. Even as a child, I knew that I was unlikely to surpass the triumph of that victorious moment. I am not gifted with strategic skills. I played Stratego and Battleship to oblige my brother and the two neighbor boys with whom we played games in air-conditioned comfort during the hot Arkansas summers, but calculated moves are not my forte. I view outlining papers, choosing homeschool curriculum, or — shudder — preparing a course syllabus as necessary evils.
All five of my children play chess, as does my husband. Four of my kids have gone to the state chess tournament. They’ve even won trophies for playing chess. My husband would have taught them to play chess, but, when a friend arranged for a Life Master to teach chess to our homeschooled kids, the offer could not be turned down: not only were my children learning valuable strategic skills, but they were experiencing socialization!
Theoretically, I could have learned to play chess along with my four oldest children, but I did not sit in on the classes. Not only was I averse to games of strategy, but my youngest son was a toddler at the time. Given that I oversaw their education and their music practice, it also seemed a good idea for my children to possess a skill that I did not. That way, I could admire and encourage them wholeheartedly without second-guessing their moves in chess games.
My youngest son graciously set up the chessboard for my photographs. In a literal sense, the triumph represented in these photos is not my own. I have experienced triumph in the past, but my triumphs of late are personal, small, not easily photographed. Figuring out how to insert photos into my WordPress posts was a triumph, and grasping the rudiments of the Rule of Thirds was also a triumph: I am indebted to perelincolors for help with the Rule of Thirds and to Doug Warren for explaining how to get the grid to show up on my iPhone. Focal techniques are tricky, and I tremble at the difficulties that await me when I begin taking photos with my son’s Canon Rebel, which he has agreed to lend me.
But I’ve learned a few things, I’ve made a few friends, and I’ve been enriched by viewing the photographs of fellow participants in Photo 101 and reading about their ups-and-downs in the Photo 101 Commons. Best of all, I have managed to post pictures of all 20 themes before the end of 2014: a small but real triumph for this blogger who struggles with consistency.
We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.
~ Bronson Alcott
After Christmas I’ll post a gallery of ten favorite photographs from Photo 101. Suggestions are welcomed!
Aside from the quotations, text and photos copyrighted 2014 by Sandra Fleming. All photographs were taken in December 2014.