When I choose my sources of inspiration, I don't just choose anyone; I really know how to pick them! Well, this week at least. This week I'm reading Walter Isaacson's book "Leonardo da Vinci" and around page 88 was when the inspiration happened. On the pages right around then, the author relates how this great genius was obsessed with understanding the human body - nerves, musculature, bones, etc. He studied anatomy, even dissected bodies, to understand how all the pieces fit together. Isaacson points out this obsession with correctly comprehending the muscles of the neck, for example, in da Vinci's 1495 and 1510 drawings of Judas and Saint Jerome. The muscles - all the anatomical details - had to be perfect. According to Isaacson, da Vinci was "pioneering a new style" that treated paintings as psychological works. He sought to portray the body and the "attitudes and motions of the mind" and the soul. But how do you portray what is going on in the mind and the soul? Da Vinci apparently wrote in his notebooks "The good painter has to paint two principal things, man and the intention of his mind. The first is easy and the second is difficult, because the latter has to be represented through gestures and movements of the limbs. The motions and postures of figures should display the true mental state of the originator of these motions... Movements should announce the motions of the mind."
Fast forward about 508 years, and I'm inspired to imagine how wonderful it would be if any photograph of a person were to capture not just what they look like, but the emotion that is going on in the mind or in the soul. And I scoff at the notion of just outwardly photographing someone. Nothing so quick, easy, and superficial as that for me! Instead, to photograph someone so as to reveal their emotions, first and foremost, would really be something.
Hm. No small task, but something to strive for.
It would be ludicrous to suggest that any photo I've taken would come close to anything Leonardo da Vinci painted, but this is a photo blog, with a big white space that demands a photo. So here is one I took a while back in India, my favorite red-shirted boatman in Varanasi. I like to think I made some progress with this one. Is it fatigue, annoyance, boredom on this face?
(Source of all the above: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. 2017. Published by Simon & Schuster.)