I have difficulty with the perspective of middle distance. We privilege urgency of detail, the proximate or immediate, or we reflect and abstract, considering scale and distance from a remove. What falls between feels like blindness.
It may be the incessant claims of a present-driven Internet, in which even the strongest ideas and images are shoved aside by the immanent. It may be the narrow, reflex-like seeing of the cyclist, spotting potholes, wet leaves, a deer poised to spring across the road.
And then, it may be our need to simplify, to compare and sort, to put to rest the nagging complexities that fill our days. It may be the longing that arises when looking at maps, at globes, at mountain landscapes, at horizon lines.
If big data is the obsession of every entrepreneur lusting for exponential returns or world-ordering social scientist, there is also the realm of small data, of the designers of human experience, of the granular examination of our intimate patterns, of historians and deep readers.
There is the middle ground of a long project, a career, a relationship. Far enough away from the beginning that the origin myth is dim, too far from the conclusion to clearly see its contours.
The middle ground is a description of scenic space in images, an area of compromise, and a logical fallacy, in which we confuse the middle position for the correct answer.
And curiously, the aspect ratio of most photographic lenses privileges precisely this space, for the middle ground is also human terrain. The ubiquitous smartphone lenses that create the distorted faces of our selfies are more suited to capturing theatrical space – from an embrace or a strike, to a conversation, or a dinner party.
This morning, I thought to send you an image of crease marks on skin, and then, of the lines of my hand, and then, a photogram of the mottled, late-summer leaves of my dogwood. Instead, I am looking for a limping stride, for an upthrust chin and a turned head, for the grip of a hand on an arm.