I first became familiar with the concept of 'radical amazement' when I was 11 and preparing for my bat-mitzvah. In the Jewish tradition, both boys and girls get to celebrate that important day with their family and friends – but only boys are allowed to read in the Torah. As a young feminist, I could not tolerate what felt like a terrible injustice and decided to join a reform synagogue which would allow me to read the holy texts as well. My family is far from religious and I never believed in God, but I was determined to start my journey into adulthood in a way that aligned with my principles.
I don't remember much from that year but I do remember bits of the text I prepared. It touched on the importance of being constantly amazed and grateful. The big lesson was that amazement doesn't always come naturally: we can train ourselves to seek and nurture it. Everything that surrounds us can be intriguing and new and wonderful. Seasons come and go but they always bring new colours. The tide goes up and down but waves never look the same.
Over the years, I've tried to cultivate this sense of amazement. Today it manifests itself in two ways. The first one, the more intellectual one, is pure curiosity: here, being amazed means being curious, wondering and questioning and hopefully learning. I'm very lucky to be doing a job that involves extreme curiosity and inquisitiveness, where amazement and questioning are required by design at all times.
The other one, more spiritual, is an appetite for beauty. I'm not talking about the type of beauty that is aesthetically pleasing, but rather the beauty that exists in moments that are profoundly human. The look in a mother's eyes. Partners holding hands. Loneliness in a crowd. Here, being amazed means taking the time to actively witness and cherish moments of beauty, or moments of truth. No reflections, no questions.
That's why I fell in love with photography — and with film. It gave me a tool to encapsulate the beauty that I see all around me, keep it forever and share it with the world. Beauty and truth always feel both transitory and everlasting to me.
I love big cities because there's always a high concentration of beauty. Even when the city feels cold and concrete buildings seem to take over, it always ends up being the perfect set for the most beautiful stories. I also see beauty in the absence, the longing, the “no longer”. This is a special kind of beauty because it's nostalgic but also full of hope. What could have been? What could still be?
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
- John Keats