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Blog

How do you tell yourself the story you're in?

Aubrey Allison

22 firstchoice How do you tell yourself the story you're in? “Literature differs from life,”says James Wood, “in that life is amorphously full of detail, and rarely directs us toward it, whereas literature teaches us to notice.”In time, the amorphous details will fall into place, or else we’ll forget them. We will be able to frame our life in narrative. The purpose of our pain will be revealed. But until then?

Photographer Uta Barth says “people are slightly puzzled by how to relate to [her] work, because it doesn't give them any of the things that a traditional photograph would give them.”What the photographs offer is basic: light. Light shining onto a wall through a window. Light that is usually the background, or an accent, cropped so that this periphery is now our focus. Her photos are clean and well-composed. The plays of light she captures are familiar. Initially, it seems too ordinary.

Barth makes her viewers aware of the act of seeing. It is the initial confusion, the “questioning and reorientation" that is "the point of entry and discovery....The 'meaning' is generated in the process of 'sorting things out.'"

I find myself now noticing the way light falls on my carpet, the way it composes itself on my wall, shifts and fades throughout the evening. This is more useful to me than encouragements that eventually, I will look back on my life and it will be a grand story. Will this longing be fulfilled? Will I outgrow it? Maybe I don’t need an answer. I can notice the amorphous details without explaining them. I am at a point of entry, and right now, that’s meaning enough.

(Photos by Uta Barth)