“When I give a camera to a 6 year old they have no trouble finding something to photograph. When a 40 year old comes to my class with their 2oomp super zoom Something-or-other they tell me they have to travel to the far reaches of the planet before they find something to photograph” ~ Tom
I can’t argue with this quote at all, and I really share the guilt. I think the answer lies in the fact that for a child everything is new, brimming with deeper meaning, and they believe they must be the first person to ever see the dust bunnies under the bed, or to discover rainbows in a puddle.
Children see these things and they want to explore, understand, and share.
Adults tend to lose that sense of wonder, drilled out of us by pressure to mature and become serious, responsible, rational members of our social structure. We often only re-discover that joy when we are taken out of our daily lives, out of our comfort zones. Sometimes only a sense of crisis drives us back into that place where we need to share. Terminal illness and natural disasters, social upheaval and moral outrage are huge motivating factors for pointing a camera. As are birth, triumph, nostalgia and joy.
My grandmother recently passed away. She was 99 and strong and sharp-witted right up until the moment she chose to move on. For many years I’ve had the camera at my side while I enjoyed the precious last few years of our lives together and yet, I have almost no photos to show of her.
I was at a lost as to how to capture her essence without trespassing on her dignity, and her sense of modesty. I didn’t know how to ask her to let me snap away when I knew she didn’t like her picture taken. I procrastinated.
Procrastination is a deadly sin when it comes to photography. Photography is about the moment, and that moment is, as we all know, as fleeting as a spring breeze. Once it passes there is no time machine to go back and capture it.
The good news is that life is full of spring breezes. There are countless more to come, and I can make myself a vow to do better in the future. It won’t bring back the lost moments, but if they serve as lessons that allow me learn and move forward then they are not 100% lost.
My grandmother would have appreciated this thought. I think I inherited my nature of facing forward in life from her, passed down through my mother. I’m not one to mourn the past or let regrets colour my life.
But, I digress…
Tom Dinning’s quote above is a good rebuke. It also reminds me that I admire photos that show me something in a way I’ve never seen before, and I think that’s what I should strive for. To capture more than a pretty photo of a flower; to do more than just conquer aperture and get a crystal clear photo of the night lights of my city.
You don’t have to go somewhere else in order to experience the world. The world surrounds us, it touches our skin constantly. It is always in range of our lens.
It’s up to us to honour it. To capture it. To share the wonder.
I think this is the big lack in my work so far. I’m fortunate in that I began photography with a natural eye for composition, and I’m certainly bright enough to learn the dials of my camera and how to use them to get that nicely exposed panning shot. But have I yet used my camera to truly share my point of view on the world, to share something in a way that makes the viewer feel a moment of wonder?
Maybe it’s the rain today, or last night’s lack of sleep…but I feel lost as to what steps I can take to go beyond my present level of development as a photographer. But I will. I owe it to my grandmother. I owe it to myself.
Something to think about.