Variations on a Theme
During a recent weekend getaway to Toronto, we saw the traveling Cirque du Soleil show “Totem“. This was our sixth Cirque show – we are ardent fans of the magical, breathtaking theatre that is the Cirque du Soleil experience.
My favorite act was the fixed trapeze duo. A young man and woman intertwined their bodies in a lighhearted vertical dance of fresh, unusual movements and lifts. I was mesmerized by the infinite variety of their movements; their astounding grace and strength and athleticism. The playful yet sensual interaction between them as they twisted and twined, defying gravity.
It is amazing to me how many variations they were able to create from the same three elements – a boy, a girl, a trapeze. It was seemingly endless, the beauty of their form and movement. High above the crowd, costumes glittering and sparkling within the spotlight’s circle, I was in awe of the exceptional creativity of their dance on high.
Of course, my words will not do their act justice – Cirque is a sensory experience that exceeds my meager writing talents. But what I wanted to impart is the lesson that I took away from the experience.
That there are endless ways to capture our vision. An infinite number of options. That we need to continue looking, seeing deeper. Not to stop after one or two shots.
So many times, I forget this: to seek all the variations on the theme. To look further than the obvious. To engage with my subject on the deepest level and discover the full variety of ways that I can capture it.
Unlike many digital photographers who take hundreds of shots, I am frequently guilty of not taking enough. It is one thing to shoot with intention – it is another to merely skim the surface, to avoid digging deeper.
After all, what if the Cirque duo had stopped after creating a single new lift? If they hadn’t been willing to explore the boundaries of movement and interaction? If they had been satisfied with a single innovation instead of pushing the envelope of motion?
Another Toronto highlight was our visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Frank Gehry, who Vanity Fair labeled “the most important architect of our age”, transformed the AGO. One of the iconic elements of his redesign is the spiraling sculptural staircase that soars upwards from the second floor.
I wanted to capture the thrilling, undulating beauty of Gehry’s design. And yet, I merely scratched the surface. Three photos that made the cut.
And while I could argue quality versus quantity, I know in my heart that I failed. I stopped too soon.
And so, from now on, my challenge to myself is to be a Cirque performer. To push my limits. To take a step beyond. To seek all variations on the theme, each time I pick up my camera.