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  • "Your pictures are all about sex" he grins.

    We were looking at a photo I shot of a hosta leaf, one of my personal favorites. Dew covered and luscious, a plant portrait set in a dark background on a hot and humid summer morning.

    "That's your interpretation" I shrugged.

    "No" he pushes. "You know I'm right. I know you." He is shifting from foot to foot, full of barely contained energy. About to burst like some nervous 17 year old. It is hard to deal with him, my friend, when he gets like this.

    I shrug again, thinking "he doesn't know half of what he thinks he does..." which pleases me somehow as a simple and likely over simplified, snarky and silent response. I smile back.

    "Oooooh now I love that one" my female friend sighs over my shoulder, as I click on the rose. The male friend looks at it casually, across her shoulder, and scoffs. "Prissy" he declares. To me it's breathtaking - it was all about bearing witness to a living thing, those petals, breathing. I felt as if I had connected with the plant in that moment, something pulsing between the human and non-human. I explain this.

    "Yeah whatever. Still sexual" he smirks, leaning in closer. "The wetness, those petals, they're just like..."

    "Stop" I say. And click to another image.

    "That one" the female friend points. "Hmm. I dunno. I find it a little sad. Depressing. Were you upset?"

    I cock my head and find myself shrugging again. No. Actually I was feeling quite at ease, comforted even, in the moment. I was drawn to the gigantic and ancient door parked in the middle of a Pennsylvania nursery. The juxtaposition of location and content shouldn't work, but does. Brilliantly. I explain this too -

    "It's very Secret Garden. See?"

    She shakes her head, frowning. No, she doesn't see it that way. Not at all.

    He's back up close again, standing right over my shoulder. "Oh yeah. That door. I know it! It's cool. But it's still all about sex. Lusty, forbidden sex, that one. You've got a secret, or maybe a big decision to make - which path are you gonna take? Are you gonna go for it or not? You know that doors are always a metaphor for..."

    "OK, enough" I announce and shut down my computer. I've had enough for today.

    He wants to believe it's all about sex, all the time. She needs to see nothing but pretty, at the expense of all else. The greyer, quieter tones don't speak to her and even seem threatening. None of this is exactly aligned with my own feelings about my own images and thus, it's exhausting.

    It's tough to realize that no one can control how someone else will perceive things.

    Beautiful or ugly, suggestive or innocent? Depressing or calming, simply happy or too loud? Pretty or prissy. There is the voice, the eye and hand of the artist. The output of creative product. And then... well who knows what. People will make connections based upon where they are themselves in the moment. There's just no telling.

    I love them all - my photographs, my friends, their opinions, the variety of lenses we put on everything and how we hash it all out to learn how each other see. Yes, maybe it is all about sex, like he says - the life force. The infinite and the momentary, the tension and transcendence. The occasional desolation somehow tied up in it all too. In being human. Interpreted by me, I suppose, through photographing the non-human.

    "You never photograph people, only things. Plants! So many flowers. You know what that means?" he jabs.

    Of course I do, I know what he's about to say, but I let him tell me anyway. I marvel at his distinctive, bounding animal energy - the way he paces and moves, moves all the time. He is unlike anyone I know, will likely ever know. Exhausting but charming. Loyal, in his own way, too. I cannot imagine how I could capture that, him, in a photo. His particular energy.

    "No, I don't. Tell me" I say, leaning back in the chair calmly and looking up at him. He starts pacing. Talking and walking, his hands and long limbs flying 'round. We are both laughing, me calling him insane and him telling me I should know - "it takes one to know one..."

    Tell me, my friend, tell me. Just one more time. Tell me then maybe I can figure out what this picture should be. What it's really all about.
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