by Robyn M. Perrin
“Do you want to see some photos?,” said Clint. They were familiar words from my husband, business partner, and best friend. It was late on a Saturday evening after he had returned from a commercial photo shoot for Madison Festivals Inc. to document two new events added to the Madison Marathon weekend: a twilight 10K for adults, and a half-mile kids’ race.
I am not a photographer. But I adore photography. It is a medium both raw and real, one that spans an incredible spectrum. The unapologetic witness of photojournalism, which documents the horrors of battlefields and the tragedy of famine. The surrealism of altered images, which create a fantasy world. The minimalism of genres such as contemplative (Miksang) photography, which challenges viewers to appreciate the beauty that always surrounds us. For photography lovers, there is always more to learn, more to see, more to experience.
Every photographer – and every photography fan – recognizes “the” images. The ones that pierce the veil of mundane life and make us see with new eyes and open souls. They are images that your mind will re-play when your eyes shut. These are images that will resonate deeply and echo throughout time. They make you want to study them. They make you want to live more deeply.
They are ephemeral, and don’t come around terribly often.
But as we gazed through the series from the evening, all of a sudden I was overcome.
Clint glanced over, surprised. I was wordless, because I couldn’t speak.
“You don’t usually cry at my photos,” he said somewhat playfully.
Still couldn’t speak.
The image that had pierced my vision was rendered in black and white. Two young girls were gathered close to each other. Clint explained that they were actually being interviewed by camera crew that was documenting the children’s race. While the video cameras fixed on their fresh, animated faces and the sound boom operator carefully picked up their excited chatter, Clint focused on something else.
Their hands. One African-American, one Caucasian, spontaneously intertwined.
I don’t know any details about the girls, or how they came to be at a running event together, or why they were being interviewed. But as a 37-something-year old American in the year 2012, along with over 311 million other Americans, I witness the complex reality of race in modern society. The strength of amazing role models in communities of color, the crushing economic disparities that follow racial lines with heartbreaking frequency, the depth of future possibilities for today’s youth that too often remains numbingly unrealized.
And as I looked at the image, none of that complex reality mattered. Because there, right in front of me, were two children showing each and every one of us what really matters:
Stop making it complicated. Grab your friend’s hand and go for a run together.
As the tears flowed, I realized that maybe, just maybe, it really is that simple. That’s the power of a photograph.