A full expression

Kathy and I photograph each other near Parliament Square, London, during springtime in 2001.

Kathy and I photograph each other near Parliament Square, London, springtime 2001.

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.”Ansel Adams

This photograph of my friend Kathy, taking photos of me taking photos of her, is not a great photograph from a technical standpoint. It’s a poorly scanned (and here, cropped) digitization of what was originally a Kodachrome transparency. Because it was a typically cloudy, low-light day in London, the depth of field is shallow, resulting in a much better focus on the flowers than on Kathy or the buildings of Parliament Square.

But it’s one of my favorite photos, and meets the definition of “great” as described by Adams, who is perhaps the best known photographer of all time. This photo captures so much that I love about Kathy, especially my happy memories of her joy of taking pictures, which has made her an ideal companion for me on so many ramblings in various cities. She does not grow impatient with my desire to catch just one more angle, one last shot. More than any other person I know, she has my love of photography, and is a diligent archivist of the beauty of everyday life.

What do you love best about your friends? Try to capture that essence in a photograph sometime. For all of the beautiful scenery I’ve been blessed to see and photograph, my very favorite shots are those of loved ones in which their unique personalities shine through. Years later, these photographs are a priceless treasure that never fails to bring a smile to my face. I hope your own treasure chest is filled with many such invaluable delights.


  1. Mike Bertoglio

    As per your post in UR keeping daughter in law in prayer- also Eric-hope he is doing better.
    Flowers are Peonies and yellow snap dragon/ ? when I first saw pict thought it looked a little like Riverside church in NYC where I went last week for the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
    I appreciate Gothic churches but they seem very un-user friendly to me somehow.
    My son and daughter went on first date for some time last night and I watched the baby. He slept 45 min and they I walked him for a time. He did pretty well.

    • Mike, kudos to you for giving your children some time to themselves! Good work! I always thought the flowers in the photo were some variety of tulips but now that you mention it, they could be peonies (although the ones I grow have different foliage). I agree with you that Gothic cathedrals are not necessarily conducive to worship, except in a very personal/individualized sense, which seems counterintuitive to the reason for building them (if a place of assembly was the intent). In general I prefer smaller venues and groups in which to meet for worship, which leaves out cathedrals along with mega-churches. But it’s undeniable that some are more drawn to them than others. There’s a lot more anonymity in a large church or cathedral, that’s for sure.

  2. Eric

    Quoting Ansel Adams about “life in its entirety” is like quoting Lady GaGa regarding the depth of musical expression.

    • I think Adams’ quote is valid; he’s saying that how we feel about life will inevitably be reflected in the photographs we take. As your comment demonstrates, people will see and describe positive or negative things, depending on how they feel about life in general. Re: your comment, I think it’s important to note that Adams’ quote was NOT about “life in its entirety” as you seem to suggest — it was about photography, as it relates to life as seen by the photographer. I was quoting Adams on photography, a subject on which he is an undisputed expert. I don’t know of any individual who can claim to be an expert on life in its entirety, and I don’t think Adams was making such a claim.

      • Rene

        And even if you don’t like her music, let’s not disparage Lady Gaga’s musical expression. I’m not a big fan, but I would say that she is creative, cares about her fans, and has a decent voice. Who is going to be the final arbiter of “deep” anyway? 🙂

        • I have to admit, I know absolutely nothing about Lady GaGa’s music. I’m not up on the latest stars of the music world, and she seems to make the news primarily for her outrageous costumes, so in my mind she’s more of a performance artist than a musician. That doesn’t mean she’s not musically talented, it just means her total persona tends to distract from that, at least for some of us. She reminds me of the early David Bowie, who is (in my opinion) enormously talented, but I don’t miss his Aladdin Sane/Diamond Dog days, for that same reason. I think his talent got lost in people’s reactions to his over-the-top presentation. I can’t think of GaGa without remembering that icky raw meat dress; the photos of that seemed to be everywhere, so even people like me who aren’t into current music couldn’t miss it. Re: what is “deep” – I agree with you that opinions will differ on that, but I tend to be biased in seeing musical depth as residing in the emotions evoked by the SOUNDS, not by what is seen. Lyrics can be deep, too, but they have to enhance the essential tone and theme of the music for me to think of the song itself as being beautiful.

          • Rene

            I have to admit, I’m a little behind the curve on “new” music…I don’t think I’d ever heard of Lady Gaga until after the “meat dress” incident, so it doesn’t stick in my mind as much as hearing her voice occasionally on the radio. Of course, she could always turn out to be a Milli Vanilli, and then I’ll have to eat my words.

            Speaking of David Bowie (I didn’t hear much of his work until the “Let’s Dance” era, but my husband brought home the “Aladdin Sane” CD and there is really some beautiful piano work on that song): I recently watched a DVD of Elton John & Leon Russell working on their album collaboration. Elton talks about his “glam” days; he admits acting out because he didn’t really feel like he could be himself. Which is really funny, if you think about it, because we all “knew.” Anyway, I’ve found as I get older, that my youthful obsession with “pop” led to me missing out on a lot of really great music, and that what I don’t necessarily like at “first listen” sometimes actually speaks to me if I give it more of a chance.

            • It’s so funny you mention Milli Vanilli – I remember being so impressed by their good looks, that when the deception was uncovered, I thought “I guess they were too good to be true.” I wish the REAL musicians had been given more of a chance. I hate the idea that singers have to be gorgeous to get a shot at success. BTW I still have two of their songs (“Blame it on the rain” and “I’m gonna miss you”) on a mix tape that I enjoy. Nowadays with auto-tune, nobody needs to do that sort of lipsync fraud; studios can make mediocre singers sound good.

              Elton John is another great example of the showmanship distracting from the underlying talent — though, to be fair, in his work (and Bowie’s and Alice Cooper’s, a musician I’ve always liked) the theatrical stuff is so embedded into some of the work that it might be hard to separate. Maybe that’s how it is with Lady GaGa’s music. I do think that the music videos that came out in the early 80’s sort of upped the ante on theatrics. Cher used to be considered outrageous and now her antics seem almost mild by comparison. Though what appeals to me about her and Alice Cooper is that they were always in on the joke.

  3. Your Kathy sounds adorable. Joyful friendships are such a gift. One of my favourite pictures I took in San Jose is dear Alys greeting a neighbour and her beautiful dog with a barrel of dog cookies she jumped up and scooped from the garage. Not because she knew the neighbour well, in fact they re-introduced each other. It simply speaks volumes about the Alys. She warmly greats everyone with her generous nature. She’s such a kind soul, it doesn’t matter that she herself doesn’t have a dog but has dog biscuits ready at hand. It’s been such a blessing getting to know her and her family.

    • I agree, joyful people are a gift in this often-gloomy world. I just love anyone who always has a smile and a kind word for everyone. We all have a lot to learn from such people.

    • (((Booomdee))) You are a dear!

      • Amen to that!

  4. Kathy

    And what a glorious day we had! No one hurrying us along…or making exasperated faces in the photos! 😉 My love of photography continues, most recently with animal subjects. I’ve been volunteering with the Helotes Humane Society & National Brittany Rescue; a quality photo can help with adoption, not just because the subject is portrayed in an aesthetically pleasing way but because it expresses my deep feelings about wanting homes for the animals. Thank you for sharing your love for photography and love for animals with me, my friend!

    • You are most welcome. I’m sure Molly and Kayla will show up here sooner or later! So happy you are working with the Humane Society. 🙂 You and I have had many fun days of snapping photos, and I hope we will be able to have many more in the years to come. Thanks for being here! (and there!)

  5. Sheila

    Julia and Kathy, what fun you must have been having. I hope someone offered to take a photo of the two good friends together. Girlfriends are to be treasured…..laugh and love!
    So glad to read good news about both Jeff and Matt, sure you’re a wonderful caregiver. Your friend, Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila! We really appreciate your prayers. It’s been a roller coaster…more bad news today (I’ll email you about it). I am so glad to hear from you each day – your kind thoughts brighten my day!

      • Sheila

        Julia, our thoughts and prayers for each other, as well as our tears and laughter everyday,mean so much to me as well. I look forward to the day we meet. Bill is confident that we will. I always like to say.”Smile and keep your chin up!” Sheila

        • Thank you Sheila – I too believe we will meet in person some day soon. I will keep smiling and keep my chin up. Every day brings happiness along with the sorrows and I am so grateful for all the good things in my life – including you!

  6. I love photos and like you, appreciate taking them, viewing them and writing about them. Great post, Julia.

    • Thanks Alys! I once read a tip from a professional organizer that advised taking a photo of something we don’t want to part with – if we have a reminder of it in digital format, that’s a much more efficient use of space! 🙂 Thanks for being here.

      • Exactly! It works really well for California Missions and paper mache sculptures too. 😉

        • How funny! I was thinking of the model of the DNA molecule that my older son made in 9th grade and didn’t want to throw away! We moved that double helix across the country but it eventually succumbed to dust, deterioration and heat (in the garage). I wish I had photographed it!


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