I’ve never really played with “street photography” much, the concept of capturing complete strangers in their natural setting. A category of photography I honestly thought was reserved for the overtly pretentious founders of Humans of New York. But while at a Lantern Festival in Colorado I managed to catch this photo rather accidentally that changed my mind. I was aiming for the lantern and never even saw the woman lighting it until I got home and was editing my photos the next day.
From sky to shining sky
After seeing the woman’s expressive facial expression I got goosebumps at how accurate the image now portrayed that moment in time. It captured the feeling better than a picture of me could have. The sheer mesmerizing energy of hundreds of people on a racetrack east of Denver releasing their lanterns with various wishes and dreams written on them, and staring calmly up into the sea of glowing shapes.
The indiscriminate hum
After taking this shot and a few others I forced myself to sit down in the camp chair and simply watch the sky. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes as wide as possible to try to fit every inch of the sky in my sights. The lanterns were beautiful. The weather was perfect. (As always, thanks Colorado!) The noise of the crowd’s awestruck excitement started to get heavy in my ears and became an indiscriminate hum. Smells of tiki torch fuel and ‘smores laid heavy in my nose and filled up my lungs with their nostalgic scents.
When I look back on how that moment felt, my brain finds a few other moments just like it but from many various points in time. My earliest memory of laying and looking at the stars in Pennsylvania at my neighbors house lying on the trampoline. Clouds are stars both there was a lot of laying and looking at the sky when my friend and I were tuckered out from jumping. There was the time laying in the road in front of the Surfside house with my friends watching a meteor shower. The time laying in the backyard of that same house by myself looking at the stars and listening to music. Even the time looking at the stars on the Court of Carolina with on old friend discussing all the philosophical topics we could fathom. Going out to Jordan Lake with friends to watch another meteor shower Sophomore year and playing guitar on the blanket while my friends gazed sleepily towards the sky. Then the cold drive to the eastern plains one night with Neil in his new Jeep to watch the stars on some ranchers property while laying on the hood to stay warm.
Simply laying and looking at the stars has the same feeling across all space and time. The feeling of utter calm, insignificance, and empowerment all in one. It’s just funny something like looking at the stars can have this arresting effect on a person. Demanding the recall of past memories just as vividly as when they first happened. Pretty magical really.