Aged eighteen, while staying with a family friend in London, I came upon the catalogue of the greatest photographic exhibition of all time – The Family of Man – a mirror to the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world.
The exhibition was assembled by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art and contained photographs from sixty-eight nations …
There is only one man in the world
and his name is All man
There is only one woman in the world
and her name is All Woman
There is only one child in the world
and the child’s name is All Children
The inspiring collection of images decided my first career as a photographer.
Ironic, given that my parents’ photographic business had held no interest for me. I realised my search was for what shone through reality, the essence in people and situation. I was inspired by poetry, story, light and shadow, movement, point of view and framing.
Fully embracing this passion started an active and adventurous period of my life, with opportunities to travel and mingle with groups of highly eccentric and creative people.
A decade later, at New York’s Kennedy airport, after a several momentous months in Washington DC, while waiting for a flight back to Amsterdam with my husband to be, a title on a book rack screamed for my attention … well, it jumped at me like a dream tiger.
Man and his Symbols.
You couldn’t find a better window into the ideas of Carl Gustav Jung.
It was Jung’s last project, addressed to a wider public, readers who would not normally come upon the over 17 volumes of his work.
Due to its pocket size, as you can see, the yellowed pages of my copy travelled and have been well-read over the years ….
The book came about through the persistence of the remarkably diverse John Freeman: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2013/03/john-freeman-face-face-enigma
He interviewed Jung in a Face to Face programme for TV: https:/ /www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPGMWF7kU_8
Seeing the programme, Wolfgang Foges (Aldus Books,) urged Freeman to persuade Jung to write a book for the general public. Jung firmly refused – until he had a dream. He consequently asked Freeman to act as editor and co-ordinator with the average reader in mind. So it became a collective project between Jung and four of his followers, M L von Franz, Joseph L Henderson, Aniela Jaffe and Jolande Jacoby, and was completed before Jung’s death in 1961,
In his introduction Freeman suggests the reader will find it a persuasive and profoundly absorbing journey … which, for me, was true from the start. During eight hours on the plane, with an occasional glance at my partner, the receding skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the expanse of oceans, my interest in dreams and the unconscious were powerfully validated. The book makes a convincing case for the imaginative life as the most distinctive characteristic of human beings. I totally grokked this: The unconscious is no mere repository of the past but also full of germs of future psychic situations and ideas … they grow up from the dark depths of the mind like a lotus and form a most important part of the subliminal psyche.
Two years on, having become a mother, and living for five years in rural Somerset with treasured time to study, it was C G Jung’s work that inspired me to delve into cultural and mythological research, leading on to my training in psychotherapy, and later still, to write novels.
My shelves contain many more books I loved to bits, and I wonder if digital version of these publications would have had the same lasting impact.
Frankly, I doubt it.
Only today I shared a tattered copy of Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ with a supervision client. She had never heard of the poet and was delighted.
Do you have books that fall apart through love and physical touch and still inspire?