The Poignancy of Not Knowing

The softness caused by camera shake at the moment of the exposure, the resulting lack of definition, the woman’s dark coat and hat—these elements set up a tension we, the viewers, are challenged to resolve. However, there is no clue to help us along. The woman’s face seems close to tears, although we cannot say for certain. But our empathy causes our identification with the figure. We would help if we could. But is our empathy welcome and proper?

This snapshot is like a novel where we learn about the character without being certain of anything. Is our empathy or interest misplaced? Are we invading this person’s privacy? We are left with unanswered—and unanswerable—questions. All we can do is wonder.