A photographer's dilemma - to capture a moment or live it.
January 29, 2016
Sometimes it is good to take a break from things and reflect. The past several months, my camera has been largely sitting inactive, I have a mountain of photographs to sort through from times before that, I haven’t delivered a lot of the work I would have liked, and this is the first blog entry I have written in over 6 months.
I’m going to try and write as honestly as possible in this post, because I feel there is a lot to release before moving on into the next exciting chapter 2016 is bringing.
My feelings on photography are changing. Whereas a couple of years ago I would dive for the camera at every opportunity and snap away like there’s no tomorrow, I now prefer to leave it behind. Why the change?
For various reasons other aspects of my life and outlook have been brought into focus, and as I become more aware of myself and the present, I realise that I’ve been getting caught up with trying to hold onto the past. A part of this is documenting everything in picture. Rather than being in the moment, I would be trying to catch it through the viewfinder, to look back on in the future, without having actually lived it in the present. Despite being aware of this to an extent, and making the effort to address with participants of my workshops and in my other writings, I had fallen into a trap that I thought I was managing to avoid.
I’ve ended up with a library full of photographs that are beautiful but largely purposeless – only a few ever being used, the rest just hidden away. Not to say everything in life must have a specific purpose because I don’t agree with that either, but in regards to photography I feel thousands of unused photographs archived away in a digital image library is not only a real shame, but arguably detrimental to physical wellbeing. Because the camera has come between self and surroundings. I haven’t properly experienced and lived in all those moments now timelessly captured. And I am viewing the subjects not in their reality, but on a screen at a later date. I look at society around me and see this problem escalating out of control; we seem to have to capture everything all the time and document our lives in photo, the result being that we primarily live behind a screen. At the same time it feels good to capture, share and revisit happy moments in time – whether beautiful things seen in nature or special memories of family and friends. The digital age is both a blessing and a curse.
As a photographer I’ve felt a need to step back and process my thoughts and contributions as this realisation has become more prominent in my thinking. And gradually I’ve let go of the need to capture everything, purely by leaving my camera behind (having a dinosaur phone – by current standards – with limited image-capturing abilities has also helped!). It’s allowed me to break the habit. It was difficult at first; I would see something amazing and chastise myself for having left my camera behind. Now I just enjoy those moments for what they are and embrace how lucky I am to be alive and witnessing such beauty. And the experience is so much more enhanced without the distraction of a camera.
That’s not to say I have turned my back on photography. I started going back out with my camera at the beginning of this month. It’s felt good to let the creative juices flow again, and it allows me to experience and view nature in different ways. But while I’m enjoying getting back into it, I am aiming to limit the photographs I obtain and also still making conscious decisions to head out on walks and adventures without taking any image-capturing equipment. I think it is fundamental to get a healthy balance.
So I’m not disappearing off the photography scene and turning my back on technology. I’ve just addressed the relationship issues I was experiencing with my camera, and refined my outlook and approach to the profession. I still love to tell stories, and inspire myself and others to see the world in creative ways; to value nature and connect with it. Photography provides an amazing tool to do so, and I have a passion and draw to continue working with that aim in mind. With some big changes coming my way this year, it has been an important process to address the feelings that were arising.
As a bonus I have also learned how powerful it is being willing to question myself, view things from different perspectives, learn to ride with the discomfort and uneasiness doing so brings, but remaining open throughout. By taking that step back I have given myself room to grow. And now the next challenge is to move forward – which is both scary and exciting. But I will save talk of that for another day…
I’m interested in other people’s thoughts and insights on this topic. There are so many beautiful photographs out there that really connect with our emotions and inspire us to really see the world. Photography definitely has a highly important role in bridging gaps and helping to establish connections, but is there a balance needed? Are we getting too caught up in taking pictures and recording everything that is happening in our lives? Should we be devoting more time to fully immersing ourselves in the beauty of a moment, and letting it go with only a smile-inducing memory imprinted in our mind? It would be great to hear from others also making conscious efforts for technology-free time.