A different point of view

By Caitlin Kelly

It’s been a long time — 23 years — since the death of my dog Petra, a small black and white terrier mix I inherited from my mother as she went off to travel. I loved seeing the world through Petra’s eyes and wondered what it was like to experience it all from a height of a foot, not my five feet, five inches.

 

We take so for granted the way we see the world, that everyone else does, too, which of course they don’t. Read any news source today and our political divisions are obvious.

 

It’s one of the reasons I love to travel, whether a few hours upstate in New York or abroad. People think differently. People see, literally, differently.

One of my favorite assignments of 2017 was meeting a Quebec farmer who took me into one of his fields and explained the function (!) of cornsilk. I’ll never see corn the same way again.

On a current project for The New York Times, I visited a Brooklyn classroom and watched tween girls in hijab confidently wielding power tools. Not at all what I’d expected!

A joy of journalism, for decades, for me, is how often it pushes us into wholly unfamiliar situations — physically, emotionally, spiritually. If you want to work in journalism and can’t imagine a thousand other ways of being in this world — run. It’s not the job for you!

In my work, I’ve met Queen Elizabeth, convicted felons, FBI firearms trainers, crime victims, Billy Joel, a female Admiral. I’ve witnessed the aftermath of a horrific head-on car crash and reviewed ballet.

A new book by Hallie Rubenhold is reframing the classic narrative around Jack the Ripper’s victims; here’s a Guardian story about it.

Using my cellphone camera is helping me see the world anew.

Some images:

 

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I love to sit at the bar and to eat alone there, two activities I know some women find intimidating and won’t do. This is from one of Manhattan’s best restaurants, Via Carota, and I loved the image in black and white better than in color. When you work in photography you stop seeing beauty per se and look for information — sometimes color is overwhelming and distracting.

As you look at the image, notice what you notice first and why: the drinks and their prices? The quality of the the light? I was most interested in the very rear, the people sitting at the table in bright sunlight. You can even see through the window across the street — to the hair salon where I get my hair done.

 

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Jose and I had just been to the ballet and were leaving the Koch Theater when I noticed this pattern of beaded metal curtains with the lights of a building behind. I liked the juxtaposition.

This was interesting; just as I noticed it, so did Jose. It’s easy to ignore something as basic as the curtains because they’re often functional as well as decorative. I liked the warm tones here as well.

 

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On our recent trip to Montreal, this amazing tiled serpent, coiled around a column, advertises a Mexican tourist agency. I just liked the color and detail without needing the entire image. Sometimes a fraction is much more compelling than the entirety.

Trying to capture the whole serpent would have been more difficult because of too much distracting stuff around it. I like how the shadow bisects the image, and had never seen tile of this shape before.

 

 

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I love shopping to see what sort of environments a decent designer can create — these were two enormous pillows in Brown’s, a Montreal shoe store. Loved the color, texture and wit.

Chartreuese is one of my favorite colors, anywhere. That graphic black and white, and its scale, are fantastic. I found the pillows more interesting than the shoes!

 

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Nothing special — the doors to the dining room of our Montreal hotel. But I love the texture and light and shadow.

There’s beauty everywhere. You just have to notice it.

 

 

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I’ve walked past this red wooden bench in our town hundreds of times, and have sat on it it a few times. But I loved it with some snowflakes.

The weathered cracks make this more interesting to me.

 

 

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Literally, out the bedroom window, looking straight down. This is one of my recent favorites.

 

This feels mysterious to me. When do we ever look down into or onto a tree?

 

Look up.

Look down.

Look at something you find ugly — why?

Look at something you’ve seen 1,000 times before and notice something new.

Listen to a podcast or radio show or TV show you’ve never heard.

Read an author or genre you’d normally avoid.

 

Has something ever radically changed your point of view?

16 thoughts on “A different point of view

  1. Thanks for the link to the Guardian story – I like that the focus of the book is the women, not their unnamed killer. I suspect there is much to learn about the history of women from that book.
    Point of view is really a defining characteristic. I remember when my light bulb came on about bullies. They weren’t saying anything about me, but they were certainly saying a whole lot about themselves.

  2. You know, I was just thinking about this last night. I went with my mom to see the ballet Don Quixote (lot of fun, by the way), and I found myself wondering what it would be like to be on that stage. To feel these thousands of eyes on you in the dark beyond the stage while you jump, step, twirl, and pantomime with twenty or so other dancers. I bet VR will eventually give me a window into this by creating an experience where you see things through the eyes of a ballerina, but until then I’ll have to use my imagination (like I did in a short story I wrote a couple months ago).
    Also, I hope that book about Jack the Ripper’s victims is available in the US. I’m fascinated by the Ripper case, though I’m no Ripperologist. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    1. Having BEEN onstage in a ballet at Lincoln Center (with NO dress rehearsal) it feels terrifying! But for a trained dancer, probably a great mix of joy and trepidation. All those hours of practice — to perform!

      I saw 2 Broadway plays this past weekend (blog post in progress) and thought this as well about how it must feel to see a crowded theater on its feet shouting and applauding and cheering.

  3. i love your pics, especially the beaded curtain, with the building lights behind it, it looks almost like an art deco design. my perspective is often changed, on things both big and small, by personal encounters, conversations, film, and age. i feel that most of us continue to learn as life continues on, changing our perspectives on many things we thought were a certain way, only to find that maybe they aren’t.

  4. jan jasper

    Caitlin, a very interesting blog post about noticing, and I like your evocative photos. I clicked the link to read that author’s extensive research about Jack the Ripper’s victims – the truth about these women was fascinating. It’s very troubling how they were all simplistically lumped together into one type, a cardboard character more than a human … (Not that prostitutes are by, definition, worthless,) I think the research brings to light the precarious existence of poor women of that era, and it shows that they are hard to characterize.

  5. One of the most bothersome symptoms of Bipolar Mania, both to myself and to others, is pressured speech. As the term would imply, I feel like I have to say something, even if I really have nothing to say. This keeps me moving between different viewpoints pretty much constantly, as I have no tolerance for meaningless prattle, even my own.

  6. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail

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