In my on-demand visual journaling workshop, one of the exercises is to ask yourself why you photograph? We have so many choices as to how we spend our time. It’s good to know why we do what we do. It can also lead to insights regarding your photographic voice. Back in 2012, I wrote a post about this question. Here’s an excerpt from my answer then.
“Today, photography is a practice that teaches me how to be. When I experience a connection with something in the moment just as it is, it reveals something universal that resonates deep inside. It’s magical. It changes me and the way I see. It cracks me open and I see how everything (including me) belongs. It’s a way to continue learning and growing through my encounters.”
I was interested in the connection and how that connection changes me. Then in 2015, during a visual journaling workshop I wrote another post on the same question.
“Photography brings me into the moment. It helps me to distill the essence of that moment within the frame. And, I experience it with all of my senses, not just my sight. Photography helps me to identify what’s most important in the moment – what exactly is resonating and how can I express that in a photograph?”
There, I’m getting more into perceptual awareness and experience, tapping into the body through the senses. It’s now 2020 and I find I’m taking fewer photographs and just experiencing each moment as it is. When you tackle this question of why you photograph, it’s a good idea to have three of your most recent favourite photographs visible to you. Then just begin to write, stream of consciousness style, whatever comes up. I did this recently and here’s a slightly edited version of what I wrote.
“These days, photography is an invitation to be surprised. Without fail, when I take the time to pause and look or go for a walk with no agenda to produce a photograph, I’m inevitably surprised by something unexpected. This only happens when I’m open, have let go of any expectations, and most importantly, patient. These moments of surprise are richly satisfying because they’re moments of presence and connection. I’m not in control of the outcome, just a witness to what is. Our everyday world is full of these chance events, subtle scenes, and intimate details. Having this mindset is a habit to cultivate. The key is patience and not being attached to outcome. That means that sometimes there will be no photograph. Nothing will come up. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, only that I didn’t see it – this time. The mindset wasn’t quite right. I don’t beat myself up about it. Maybe I was unconsciously attached to something or a niggling thought got in the way. There’s always another day and infinite possibilities.”
Here are some recent examples of surprises – birds crammed on a wire, brilliant blue through a hole on a fence, and light in a waiting area.
You can see that the thread of presence runs through all of my reasons for photographing. How about you? If you’d like to try this for yourself, here’s a link to a PDF for this exercise (and one other), that’s part of the course, A Visual Journal. Perhaps this will pique your interest in doing the whole course, which concludes with coming up with 5 core photographs and a personal statement. It’s fun and fruitful.