They say a writer is someone on whom nothing is lost. No wonder. Writing is paying attention. To people mostly, but also the world at large and your own inner life. I recently discovered that photography could be all those things too. Maybe more. It calms me to take photos because I get to pay attention to one thing at a time. The endless patter of information, thought, and emotion fades to the background, and for a blissful moment, the length of a breath held before releasing the shutter, I am present in the moment and at peace.
I really have to hold my breath for a bit, by the way. Otherwise, the viewfinder mists in the cold from the breath escaping from under my facemask. Eyeglass wearers will empathize, I’m sure. That small annoyance aside, though, photography brings me the much-needed peace of mind.
The contrast to writing is quite striking. Because to write, you have to sift through the contents of your head first, shovel them aside like snow, to clear the way for the argument you’re trying to make, or at least give yourself enough space to examine an avenue of thinking that interests you. Either that or you make peace with the mess inside you and capture some of it instead.
With photography, it’s different.
The fundamental rules are straightforward. The world is an unfolding painting, repainted second-to-second, and your role in it is to point your camera at something that grabs your attention and shoot. That’s it.
Each photo, in essence, is bottled attention.
My friend, Luciano, who’s a much better photographer than I, tells me to put more of myself in the pictures, to tell a story by stringing them together, to drag out the pain, suffering, and despair of my personal situation, to document how our home, that most sacred refuge of privacy, goes through my wife’s cancer. How we change. How our environment changes. It’s a powerful idea, maybe too powerful for me right now. I already have one occupation that requires me to spill my guts out, and I don’t think I am ready for another.
For the time being, I am happy enough to have discovered a hobby that gets me out of the house and out of my head.
PS. You can follow my photographic escapades on Instagram.
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