Let There Be Light
I’m not sure what the draw is for me, but as I look back at so many of the pictures I take, particularly the urban landscape type of pictures, an amazing number of them are of windows. When I looked back at my post of images from Willimantic, CT, most of the pictures contain or are about windows. So I began to think about windows and what they represent. Why we photograph them. What is their symbolism?
Windows began as holes in the walls of dwellings to simply let light and air in. It was the Romans who first began to actually glaze windows. But it was the era of the cathedrals that made the window something special. Large openings in cathedral walls needed glazing, but large pieces of glass were not available. So the windows were filled with a mosaic of glass pieces assembled with lead strips in between. This not only allowed for the glazing of extremely large areas, but also for the church to inspire and teach and pictorially put forth imagery and symbols of the faith for those who could not read. The windows were seen as the sources of “light from heaven”, or divine light. They also illuminated these huge cavernous structures with great beauty and color which helped to add great interest to the attendance of church services. They were a place for the additional expression of early Christian art by the craftsmen and artists of the times. As time has progressed, the stained glass window has changed in style with the architecture of the current age but has remained a mainstay in the church. It has also been a point of beauty and decoration among homes and larger buildings over the years.
Whatever my attraction is to windows, perhaps that is part of the reason I not only have photographed them so often, but also chose the field of stained glass art as a business for about twelve years of my life.
Windows are places of inspiration for many. They represent many things in our lives. “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Windows are the divider between our private lives and our public. They are the source of light and the point from which we see the world, while protected within our dwellings. They offer a way to bring nature inside. “The picture window”. The framed landscape that is ever changing.
Many great poets have written about the view from a window. Carl Sandburg, for instance, has poems about what he sees and how he’s affected by the view from his window. In paintings by Vermeer, soft window light provides the illumination, but the open windows themselves represent the entering of outside temptation. Windows in art are often used to create a sense of depth, to frame a picture within a picture.
But they also symbolize many things. Curiosity, mystery, vulnerability, awakening, freedom, the vision of that which is unattainable, voyeuristic pleasure, our separation from the outside world, the place of invasion, the place of welcoming, the entrance to the bed chamber for the secret lover, the point of fear for the lonely child at bedtime, the place to leave the candle burning for the wayward soul.
Windows are not only for looking out, but for looking in. The shadows dancing on the shade at night, the warm and happy lovers dining while the estranged stare yearningly in from the cold outside, the child wishing for the ultimate Christmas toy or the passing office worker staring in at a pair of red pumps still three weeks pay away, or the young couple gazing in at the engagement rings at the jewelers. Windows are art. They are for the display of our desires. They are there to tempt us and tantalize us, while keeping us safely segregated.
A partially open window is an invitation. Windows hide what’s inside, they are places of discovery. “The window to the mind”. Windows are places of vulnerability. An opening in a wall, a place where we can be seen and discovered. Windows stimulate our curiosity. Windows offer a view of what is outside. Outside our personal existence, outside our own experience. They are a place of fantasy, like Wendy leaping out the window with Peter Pan. A broken window is a symbol of a violation, or abandonment. A barrier that has been breached. Why are windows such targets for children’s rocks and wayward baseballs?
These are all reasons, I suppose that windows are such an attraction for me. I am constantly seeking images that offer a story, images that allow me to imagine. What lies behind, what story exists on the other side of a window? Windows are a natural picture frame. What better place to look than through a window?
At A Window
GIVE me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!
But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.
All images are Copyright © George Cannon, all rights reserved.