There’s something about being above the rest of the world that makes my heart rush. Sitting in the trundling and rocking cable car and feeling the wind blowing through my hair felt freeing; I was away from the screeches of 7-year olds too hyped up on cotton candy and neon vortexes, away from the smell of boiling oil mixed with cloying sugar, away from the pull and push of the couples and families that clogged the streets below. The glare of yellow lights was now below my feet, balanced out by the night sky.
As I sat up there, I glanced over at my cousin Ariana snapping photos of the fireworks sparkling above the stadium. I remembered her telling me about the newest photo trend she had found on the internet.
"It's pretty cool," she said, chomping down on her poutine, "people take photos of their feet from where they're standing, post it on Instagram, and tag it #fromwhereIstand."
Out of all of the photo projects my cousin told me about, this one fascinated me: the idea of people leaving behind their marks in moments they deemed important or beautiful enough to commemorate in a single photo was foreign to me. In all of my photographs, I always leave myself out of the photos.
"How could I leave a permanent mark on a scene that looked so much better untouched by my presence?" I asked myself. I don't pluck the delicate purple and white flowers that litter the Brickwork trails; instead, I take photos of them rustling under the weight of butterflies. I don't leave behind footprints on the beach; instead, I take photos of the waves washing the traces of other people away. I don't join the group photos at school dances; instead, I take photos of everyone smiling and laughing. I am only the observer, not the participator.
And yet, as I peered down at the CNE, there was a sudden blind rush as I was driven to fumble for my camera to snap a photo of where I "stood." There was nothing special about the park for me; it was just a tourist beacon. But at that moment, there was a temporary magic that felt unshakably beautiful and important. I leaned back carefully, stuck out both of my feet, and snapped a quick shot. The lift wobbled as I leaned back forward, and for one panicky moment before I grabbed the safety bar, I thought I was going to pitch forward.
I settled back into my seat and clicked the camera to playback mode. As I glanced at my camera screen, I was surprised to see how well the photo had turned out. There was the greyscale darkness of the night sky and my feet against the bright warm tones of the CNE. The bar that obstructed the lower part of the photo was more than just that: it was the safe barrier of being an outside perspective that I reached beyond to make an imprint. It was a captured moment of chiaroscuro that I couldn’t have imagined composing.
It’s always about the chiaroscuro: finding the balance between dark and light, between observation and participation, between suspension and falling. And it’s when I find that balance that I can leave my own marks behind.