The Art of Listening // Reading Response

The Art of Listening x Henning Mankell // The New York Times
Reading response for Photo 402 // Steven Rubin

“That’s not a good way to die — before you’ve told the end of your story.”

As someone who is more of a listener I really enjoyed this article because I could connect personally. There was a quote that I pulled out of the article and copied above that really struck me – “That’s not a good way to die — before you’ve told the end of your story”. Over the last year that’s something that I’ve really been thinking about in regards to my own photography. A painting professor I had last spring once asked our class why we wanted to go to school for art. He was constantly questioning why I was making everything I was making, not just paintings but he also looked at my photography too. At first, I never knew the answer. I was always shy about sharing my work — I would say I don’t know why, I just kind of did it. When really, photography has always been a way I have felt comfortable communicating with people through. I’m constantly surrounded by my friends. We live together, eat together, play together, everything. Sometimes though, I find myself feeling like I am outside of the group because I spend a lot of time observing and listening, not doing. Photography is my way of doing, participating. It’s turned into a way for me to record my life and the lives of my family and friends around me. There is so much about listening that is also observing and simply being present in a moment. It wasn’t until last spring when my grandmother’s health was failing that I thought about photographing someone or something that someday may not be around. At the time that I photographed my grandmother in her assisted living home she had lost the ability to talk due to Parkinson’s Disease. However, you could see in her eyes that she was fully coherent and aware of what you were saying to her. I never knew what to say when I would visit her with my dad and I don’t think that my dad knew what to say either, but from the minute we would walk into her room he wouldn’t stop talking until it was time for her to be wheeled out by one of the nurses into the common room for dinner. I usually spent every visit sitting and watching my dad show her photos of his grandson and photos of me at college. I would listen to stories he told her about things going on in my brother’s lives that I might not have even heard yet. The last time I went back to visit her I took my camera and photographed my dad’s interaction with her. My grandmother passed away two weeks later and these were the last photographs of her with any of her family members. I have a fear for getting older and weirdly a fear of forgetting other people in my life, instead of a fear of being forgotten.

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