Footprint at the Beach
I prefer to shoot to themes rather than to document an object, I am more interested in what that object can convey metaphorically, following Minor White’s suggestion that you should photograph an object not for what is it but for what else it is. I still do more camera club photography than I like but sometimes I break through in small steps.
In this photograph I am interested in what each of the elements says or suggests. The center of interest of course is the footprint. A human element in a photograph will almost always trump every other object for center of interest. The footprint speaks to the presence of a person or at least the past presence. The seaweed and the traces of sand sculpted by the shifting tide gives location—a beach.
When on the beach I have several themes but the most common are (1) footprints in the sands of time,(2) the strong attraction that the sea holds over our imagination and (3) the edge—the line between sea and land. Looking at almost any of my beach pictures and you will find one or two of those three themes. This photograph contains all three even though the ‘edge’ is only implied. I also do abandoned clothing or dead creatures on the beach but that is more about dust unto dust and death rather than about the sea or the beach specifically.
In this photograph we see a single footprint in the sand in a location identifiable as a shoreline, not seen but suggested by color and by ancillary elements. From that, a line of thought can take a variety of directions. I make no claim to knowing how the universe the earth or man came to be. I simply accept the limitation of my ignorance of how such things can be.
If you are an evolutionist you believe that man evolved somewhat helter-skelter, obviously accidentally from the sea. I am more intelligent design, believing more in an intelligent, creative God who has no need for urgency, rather than the magician that pulls matter from nothingness although I do not discount that being within the possibility of God’s ability. Therefore, I believe in the possibility rather than probability that man could have evolved from the sea and that possibly has a great deal to do with the attraction the sea holds for man. I do believe that everything in this world is and has since the beginning undergoing constant change whether it is called evolution or something less controversial. I do believe that man was created in the image of God but have no idea what that exactly means. It could be as many suppose, physical image but I suspect the means something quite different. I also do not know if that ‘image’ is what exists today or what is to come in the future. And yes, that statement will grouse some of my friends and relatives, who I am certain love me enough to straighten me out. And for the strict creationist who can say that clay does not exist at the edge.
I have met people that don’t like the beach because of the sand, but I have never met anyone that does not like to be at or on a large body of water. Seas and oceans--maybe, it is just the water--have a very strong pull on our sense of adventure, sense of discovery. Keats wrote that when his thoughts turn to his death or when life and love go awry then on the shore of the wide world he stands alone till fame and love to nothingness do shrink.
So by examining the elements, is the footprint entering the water, returning to the womb so to speak; someone coming from the sea and turning for that one last glimpse; or is it a footprint of someone standing at the edge staring out to sea like Keats?
There is of course clues but there is no right or wrong answer. It is to the viewer’s imagination to supply the story they are most comfortable with. Or, abandoning a reference to creation, do they want to see it as a story of man’s spirit longing for the ages old adventure of what the sea conceals just over the horizon?
And of course, sadly there are those that will only see it as a picture of a footprint on a beach and never let their imagination soar beyond technique for technique sake, hanging unyieldingly to photography as craft.