Is photography good for the soul?
I’m sitting cocooned in my office early this morning on yet another wet and windy winter’s day – the time is nearly 7am. I am sure I am not the only one to notice, but opportunities to get out and do some so called ‘serious shooting’ has been limited to half-day glimpses of dry sunny weather at best since the autumn; it seems to have rained virtually non stop. The short and long-term projection is for more of the same. Bucking that trend, yesterday’s forecast promised sun, so I took the chance to drop everything and run – camera equipment was primed and fully charged and ready for photographic combustion of the highest order!
The workshop season is in full swing and my tutoring responsibilities often curb my own opportunities to grab days like this, so, although tinged with a hint of guilt at the self-indulgence, it felt good to be going out on my own. As I cornered some of the local country bends in the camper, negotiating the potholes and giant size puddles left in the wake of the most recent downpour, I could feel the adrenalin of expectancy was growing with every turn of the wheel. The sunrise was ascending far quicker than I was hoping, so the chase was on – typical … I wait for weeks and then I am not fully in control when I finally get the chance to shoot. A mediocre sunrise (photographically speaking) on the River Stour ensued and I was at least pacified to some degree. It was good for my soul to be out … or was it?
The remainder of the day had been carefully choreographed with a visit to some local lakes surrounded by sculptures, a serene environment in which to sit and ponder life in general – not to mention the chance to make a few images. The lakes were peaceful and the surrounding foliage was wearing the bareness of winter. The January morning sunlight was low, creating long shadows. I sat totally relaxed for a while in a lakeside viewing shelter, which has a deck jutting out into the lake; tranquility and serenity probably do not get any better. I savoured these precious moments enjoying the warmth of the morning sun as my thoughts wandered. Firstly, I thought about William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin, famed for having colour temperature scales name after him (white balance scales to you and me). I wondered if he had moments like this. Not really wanting to dwell on that too much, I promptly shifted my thoughts to photography in general and then back again to a more personal question. Is photography good for my soul? It seems to be today.
Photography is now accessible to all, thanks to the digital medium. Everyone who owns a mobile phone has the opportunity to make photographs daily. A quick Google search shows 6.8 billion people worldwide now owns a mobile phone. In the course of my tutoring and workshops I see many new and experienced photographers very keen to progress in their learning. I regularly see a strong passion to want to master camera skills and get better at what they do. Ultimately I guess, that is what we all want to do as photographers. But is it feeding our soul?
I was once privy to a very interesting verbal altercation at Durdle Door (a well-known and highly photographed Dorset location). The two photographers were almost coming to blows because one planted himself in the view of the other – thankfully they were not clients of mine. I watched as they vehemently abused each other. The whole episode seemed funny at first before I realized that their attitude to each other had affected their chance of enjoying their photography that day. What’s more, it had shifted my thoughts and I was equally distracted.
Photography is solitary in nature. It may be a profession or pastime at whatever level the photographer wishes to take it, but ultimately it is not a team sport – you have to do it for yourself. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy the company of others, but in my experience, other people can affect your concentration, which in turn will affect or influence your experience to make a photograph of choice. If the motivation is competitive it will not feed creativity. I believe it’s the creative process and experience of making the image that feeds the soul – ask a gardener what feeds his or her soul, ask a painter or sculptor the same question.
So, is photography good for my soul? Yes, without doubt it can be!
In coming to this serene and tranquil location to see and photograph spectacular sculptures, I am certain their creation must have fed the soul of the sculptor – but the added bonus is they also feed the souls of many visitors, including mine!
So ask yourself, does your photography feed your soul?
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