Starting with its cover, the book encourages us to immerse ourselves in the intimacy of its author. The title Am I Not Light, debossed in the cardboard, invites the touch of our fingers and the discovery of what’s inside. We come across the velvety back of a woman in a white silk negligee. Her nearly platinum hair sparkles in the darkness of the room. She is lost in her thoughts in the deep of the night. Insomnia? This waking night is a source of solitude. The suspended time, the sleeping world are favourable to listening to the silence, to the reflection and to the introspection. To listen to the variations of the soul, that is Bob Farese’s purpose through this book.
The title, Am I Not Light, explains the photographer, is also a “nod to Einstein, who taught us that light and energy and mass are relatively interchangeable. I thought it fitting also for a photography book, which in essence attempts to capture light.”
Bob Farese is a scientist and Chair of the Department of Molecular Metabolism at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, where he runs a lab. Like any researcher, he seeks to understand the world. He uses experiments in the hope of finding answers. His images are a document of an experience of the self and of the world. They testify to the photographer’s interactions with the universe.
Bob Farese came to photography through the woman he shares his life with, herself a photographer: “My wife Nancy Richards Farese is a photographer and first got me into photography about five years ago by showing me how David Guttenfelder of National Geographic used his smartphone for many of his images. I decided to try it. After learning some from David in a workshop, he turned me on to the iPhone photography of Gueorgui Pinkhassov. After that, I was totally hooked and wanted to learn and learn and learn, and hopefully achieve some mastery.”
Photography was a revelation and opened the doors to a new understanding of the world. “Photography has, in a sense, changed my life. I notice things. I am more mindful of light, color, beauty, and other things in my surroundings. And I am very happy when I am shooting and learning and in this creative space… I am often looking for these hidden glimpses of beauty that are just in front of us, but most everyone doesn’t see.”
Bob Farese simply goes outside, and with his cell phone photographs what intrigues, amazes, or moves him on his solitary walks through the cities he discovers. “Many of the photos are from Boston. But some are from my travels to San Francisco, New York, Paris, and other places in the world that my work takes me.”
When he’s out walking, he is on the lookout for anything that might catch his eye. Attentive to spaces, shapes, textures, and reflections, he captures their poetry and magic, offering us visual impressions. The oily texture of leaves, the silhouetted shadows of passersby, the sun blazing on the surface of a pond, light reflections palpitating in a shard of glass, water drops and fingerprints on a glass wall, tarmac shimmering after rain… Bob Farese pulls all the stops to present a sparkling reality.
Images and words are interspersed throughout the book, separated by blank pages which give them a precious quality and expressive force. Even if Bob Farese protests he is not a poet. “My grandfather and my mother loved poetry, so they were influences. For a while, I regularly read Mary Oliver and Rumi. And David Whyte. I am by no means a poet. But I do love lyrics and songwriting, and I do a lot of writing for my science research. I have a love for language, and I like to see what language can capture in a few words.”
Yet the effect is there. From the sound of his footsteps in the house to the music wafting through the air to find refuge in his ears, to his sense of solitude in the face of the crowd, to his breath. Bob Farese puts his senses on alert. He shares with us his most instinctive, primal sensations that emerge from contact with the world, and how these influence his emotions and states of mind.
Perusal of Am I Not Light encourages us to look for the light in our lives, to open ourselves to the world and marvel at it. So go out and open your eyes, it’s all there!
Am I Not Light by Bob Farese, Lecturis, 320 pages, 35€.
More information on Bob Farese’s work on his website.