In 2007, our family had to relocate. We left the place we called home for over 20 years and all our friends and moved to Long Island. It was stressful and lonely for me and my teen aged kids. I fell into a significant depression.
I share this now because we are living in a stressful time brought on by worry, isolation and uncertainty. So many of us are grappling with how to deal with the challenges that came with the Covid-19 virus. While encouraging progress is being made, we are still in the midst of loss and fear and indefinite limits on normal life.
After moving to Long Island, I sometimes thought I would never feel whole and happy. But I found photography to be my avenue to overcoming my emotional challenges.
It happened almost by accident. One day I decided to take my camera and just see what I could see, just to get out of my house. I got in the car and went to the nearby harbor for a walk. I took lots of pictures and most of them sucked. But for that time, I didn’t think about my loneliness or my sadness. This became a habit, the kids would leave for school and I’d walk out the door with my camera. I’d come home with more mediocre pictures but feeling better. Then one day when I was out in the woods it hit me. While out with my camera I was living in the
moment, the past and the future were irrelevant. I could get lost with photography for hours and the time would pass joyfully. I'd get so engrossed in what I was doing it was a meditative experience. I had found a mechanism for coping with the sadness, stress and loneliness that had plagued me for months. And I was learning to appreciate my new environment.
Now photography is a significant element in my life. I’ve thought a lot about how and why it has mental and emotional healing powers. Perhaps these observations will encourage others to turn to photography (or other creative pursuits) during these uncertain times.
Photography Can Be a Mindful Practice
How great do you feel when you’re “in a zone”? When your energy is focused on a creative task, time disappears.
Photography inspires curiosity and exploration and allows us to really connect with our surroundings. The mind turns to choosing a subject, previsualization of the image, evaluating composition, light and angles. You reflect on your immediate world which gives relief from the feelings of stress that come from your broader existence. For that time, YOU decide what’s in your world, your frame. It lets you get out of your head.
Photography Allows Playfulness
No need to be serious, the sky is the limit. Any subject is fair game, there are many stories waiting to be told. Take time to turn away from real life and be curious and imaginative. There are no “wrong” results, just an exploration of what you can do when you allow yourself to play with your ideas the possibilities. Happy Accidents are the best surprises.
Photography Allows Us to Find Interest Everywhere
With practice, we develop a “photographer’s eye” and we find that we start to see the world differently. We notice minute details or a shaft of gorgeous light. The most mundane item may catch the eye and spark the
imagination. It helps us to appreciate the world around us, wherever we are. It’s not always about “beauty”. It’s often the everyday, the unusual, or the story that makes an engaging image.
There Is Always Something New To Learn
We can never know it all, there is always something new to explore. Try a new technique, a new genre, a different lens or new processing tools. Challenge yourself to grow as a photographer. Post processing is a kind of magic, you can change the mood of an image or create something that never existed. Expand beyond photography to digital art. It’s all open to your experimentation, creativity and playfulness. Explore the work of other photographers in books or online but DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS. They have arrived where they are on their own path. Discover what you love about the work of other artists and add this knowledge to your toolbox. Your style will evolve from the work you admire and study.
Your Practice Will Help You Build Confidence
We’ve all heard the saying that your first 10,000 images are your worst. I don’t completely buy into that, we all have a few early gems. But it is true that with practice you improve and a lot of pride and confidence comes with that improvement. At a point you realize you understand what you’re doing, you’re making informed decisions both technically and creatively with success! You FEEL like a photographer and you get pleasure from sharing your work. But always stay open to those Happy Accidents!
Some Days Will Be Duds
Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes we come home with a memory card full of what seems like nothing. But even if the images are disappointing you’ve still gotten out there, cleared your head. You escaped the stresses of life for awhile and worked at honing your craft. Focus on the process, not the product. Perhaps you can learn something from these images. What happened? What did you miss? It’s also possible if you return to them later with a fresh eye, you’ll find something you really like among them. Try processing a few and you may produce some pleasing or surprising results.
Participate In A Challenge
It’s not a competition, it’s a challenge. It’s a starting point to get you thinking about a certain subject or technique. It’s a push to try something new or explore archives of your work. LVPC hosts a new challenge every two weeks. It’s fun to play along and to see the interpretation of other photographers.
Find Joy In Your Experiences and Creations
Your images tell your story. We have a legacy in the pictures we create. Surround yourself with your images in prints or on your screensaver. I see my most treasured images every day as my
computer idles. Your favorite images will bring you moments of pleasure through pride or reminders of positive life experiences. They allow you to reconnect with who you are and the people, places and things that bring you peace and happiness.