“I love all my submissions, but this one is special. I think these are beautiful,” writes Robert E. Jackson. “Some of these photos were not what the photographer saw, but what the camera saw as people blinked just as the photo was snapped.”
The people in the pictures are neither sleeping nor dead. The circling angel of death is not at hand. These snapshots are full of life. They invite questions. What did they see in that split second when the cameras’ shutters and eyelids snapped close in unison? Are we looking at moments of bliss? Whatever it is, we’re intrigued, hoping for the next photo to reveal more. But the scene is complete. We don’t need to see the other person’s eyes to connect with them. We’re being transported towards the subject, our curious minds seeking closeness and understanding. We get to creep up unnoticed and stare.
Much is said about the eyes being windows to the soul, conveying something intensely personal and vital. But the idea is not insuperable. Eyes can deceive and distract. Shadows, sleight of hand and tricks of the light make vision an unreliable sense. The familiar look becomes beguiling and purposefully self-regarding to the point of banality. But with no look to adopt and convey, these subjects appear lost in their innocence. “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince. These photographs of people with their eyes “so wide shut” become intense and suggestive of something truthful. If art is about feeling the mystery, these photographs are just that. Robert’s right. They are beautiful.
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