Life can be really, really weird and wonderful…
A few epiphanies came to me last night while I was attending Jake Garn’s Shoot For Love class. The topic was “The Language of Inspiration”. There was no technical talk, it was all about getting in touch with one’s creative vision. I want to share a few things I learned. I’ll be breaking this into two separate posts. Shoot For Love shed some light:
It’s so important to be available when the moments of inspiration show up. That includes having a camera or a notepad or some recording device handy. Putting a recording device in your pocket when you walk out the door is the perfect act of faith, and this knowledge becomes the catalyst that interacts with the world and the forces that be, to make that moment manifest.
That being said, I have a confession to make. I’ve been a photographer for almost 11 years. When I first started, I was thrilled to pack my camera with me everywhere I went. Photography taught me how to truly SEE. The world changed, it became a visual playground, a rich buffet of shapes, colors, lines, curves, light and shadow. Every drive in the car was an exciting opportunity to run into something beautiful to document in 2 dimensions.
Enter my pride: We all want to be cool, we all want to be accomplished, and none of us are immune from the desire for others to view us this way. Every new photographer I know goes through that shutter-happy stage where they carry their camera with them everywhere they go. For several years, I wanted to be perceived – by myself, and others – to be better than those beginners. SO, I decided that I was too cool for that. I’d “leave work at work”, and the only time you’d see a camera in my hand is if I was getting paid. I wanted to be a professional, not a hobbyist.
And then, I had a few experiences that somewhat reinforced this idea: A few years ago, my favorite band, RUSH, was coming to town. Photographing RUSH is on my bucket list. I tried to get a photo pass, but failed. I shoved a small point and shoot camera into my underwear and made it past security, into the show. I proceeded to hold that damn camera up for more of the concert than I’d like to admit. I was so concerned with getting a few photos, that I watched a large part of the show through a 2″ LCD screen. If you’ve ever seen RUSH in concert, you’ll know what a futile pursuit that was. A RUSH concert is a rich, enveloping experience… one I failed to get wrapped up in, because I was too worried about sneaking a few crappy 6 megapixel photos. I vowed to never waste another huge, vibrant human moment like that again, by extruding it through a viewfinder before it could enter my head, heart, and soul.
These are two extremes of failing to be appropriately present. In one extreme, my pride kept me from bringing a tool along with me in my daily life, that would have enabled me to create some beautiful things. In the other, my fear of loss drove me to focus too much on creating an image, and I failed to be fully present, soaking up the reverberations of the music that has meant the most to me during life.
I’ve come to a point where I don’t care if I look like a noob. Relatively speaking, I am one. Compared to my photographic heroes, I know nothing, and that’s okay. I think I know when it’s time to put the camera down and be a human being, fully present to that which is meant to be felt ans written about later, rather than chopped up with a shutter. I also think I know when the universe is serving me a perfect image to make, and I’m going to try to honor that by having a camera around my neck more often.
After all, it’s that wide eyed, child like fascination with the world that made photography and I fall in love in the first place. It’s time to rekindle that relationship.
“I feel the sense of possibilities,
I feel the wrench of hard realities.
The focus is sharp in the city.
On life’s ancient tales,
Steeped in the history of London.
Mist in the streets of Westminster.
Wistful and weathered,
The pride still prevails,
Alive in the streets of the city.
Are they oblivious
To this quality?
Of light unique to
Every city’s streets.
Pavements may teem with intense energy,
But the city is calm in this violent sea.”
– RUSH, “The Camera Eye”