Seeing, Feeling and Picture Making
I’ve been going on long, meandering walks lately. Mostly to take me away from the computer where I have been dealing with the fallout from Covid-19 cancelling my photography tours this year. A lot of work goes into planning and running photography tours and a lot of work goes into cancelling them and working out appropriate refunds when travel restrictions mean that these tours cannot run. So, understandably, stress levels can peak and it can feel as if the four walls of your home office are closing in.
These walks clear my mind and help blow away the fogginess that builds up when you spend too long staring intensely at words and numbers on-screen. I don’t take a camera on my walks; I don’t even take a smartphone. It’s about as unplugged as I get in life. And in these unplugged moments, I noticed things. The blush of gold on a cloud as the hues of sunset begin to fill the sky. The way the rich yellow of eucalyptus blooms stand out against the darker olive greens of its leaves. The beautiful curve of a walking path as it winds its way around gnarled roots. The way a russet leaf pops up against fallen twigs and sheoak needles. The fingers of clouds stretching across the rich blue of a morning sky, wisps of cotton wool that would look remarkably beautiful when photographed at 300mm f/5.6. And these move my heart, fill me with momentary delight or awe. It’s as if I’m seeing and feeling things for the first time.
As photographers, we are so blessed with the ability to notice things that trigger an emotional reaction. I believe this is the heart of what we should strive to create as photographers: images that touch and resonate with others, that take them, even if for a moment, outside of themselves and into the feeling of our moment. There is something so powerful, so personal about our being able to do this.
Even as we face a new kind of normal that seems to demand that we alienate ourselves from others, I believe that it is through photography (and other forms of creative expression) that we can connect even more intensely with others and to build on a shared humanity that comes from shared feelings. Social media and photo sharing sites allow us to do this, despite the tyranny of distance and social isolation.
When you next take a picture, try and be conscious of what drew you to what you just saw and felt and why you wanted to immortalise it in a wondrous conglomeration of pixels. Don’t be afraid to shoot it, and share it because that’s the purpose of photography.
And if you’re feeling that the language of social distancing and self isolation is getting you down, when the empty shelves in your local shops make you despair at where we are heading as a community, when you begin worrying because the future is uncertain and you’re concerned about what it holds for those you love, take a walk; feel the breeze brush against your cheeks, marvel at the blush of light in the sky, delight in the shape of clouds and lose yourself in the beauty that can be found in leaves and trees and twigs.