This is a topic that has been slowly forming in my mind for a while. Today, I had a chat to a good friend online, and some of the things that we were discussing finally started to crystalise these thoughts into some sort of form that I think I will be able to get out. The general thought that has been slowly forming goes something like this:
If you lead a life that involves following your passion, this is a path that you are able to follow that will teach you lessons about yourself, and others
The slow formation of this realisation has been assisted somewhat by some of the reading that I have been doing of late. A few books on Zen art and culture. Some of the philosophical type writings of Nassim Taleb. And finally, some books on the Stoics, and their ways of thinking about life, and how one should lead ones life if they want to live a fulfilled and purposeful existence.
Before having this chat with my friend, I also watched a documentary last week called 'Everybody Street'. If you are into photography in anyway at all, then it really is a must watch. The sheer passion of the artists that are featured says something for the quality of work that comes from not only finding what it is that you love to do, but also from following the path to do that thing for the right reasons.
I have been transitioning back to shooting film, as some people who follow this blog might know. This has been a challenging process for me at times, but one that I am starting to find peace with. I was actually watching Everybody Street for some inspiration before leaving the house to go for a walk in town with my camera. My plan for the day was to actually take the digital camera. There were a few reasons for this. Mainly so that I was able to feed a little beast of instant gratification that lives in all of us, and to take the easy path to get some interesting images.
Watching the documentary made me change my mind, leave the digital camera on the shelf where it has sat for the last 3 or 4 months, and take the film camera with me instead. A much better choice, and probably one of the events that continued the slow process of this thought that I had forming. I think that this realisation that I have had is actually kind of important for me. I may be typing these words for you the reader to digest, only to have you sit and think, I know all of this. So be it. I have said before, and will say again, the process of writing these blogs posts is as much about me sending little bits of myself out there for others to read, and in the same process, learning something more about myself. Taking some time to think about topics that I am passionate about, and pondering these topics to a level that is decent enough to put down as carefully selected words that convey my thoughts. Its as much about putting the final touch on these slow forming lessons that I am learning for myself, as is it about having people read them.
As I said above, what I am finding at the moment, is that following what you love (in my case photography), can be done in more than one way. I guess its that old adage, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Maybe its something like, there is more than one way to make a photo. But, even though there is more than one way to do something, there is also usually a right way. I am not talking about the right tool for the job here. Not talking about the right lens for the image. Not talking about the right camera for street photography. I am talking about the process that you as an artist use to capture the images that you make. And the right way for one person, might differ greatly from the right way for another. Doing things your own right way, is what makes the images that you make unique.
Part of the lesson is finding the right way for you, and then perfecting it. Its kind of like the whole enlightenment path that I have been reading about in the Zen books. I am far from religious, but this doesnt mean that investigating different paths of existence is not something that I find intriguing at times. There are life lessons that can be learnt in a lot of these things, and this slow forming thought that I am documenting is probably one of them.
Enlightenment refers to the "full comprehension of a situation"
I think that this sums up what I am trying to convey really well. I was about to say that we are not really talking spiritual enlightenment, but I dont know if thats actually correct. The photographic enlightenment that I am suggesting we all start to seek out here, likely should be some sort of spiritual process. I guess if its not something that has a spiritual kind of feeling to it, then this might be the key to discovering that the 'way' youre doing it at the moment, might not be the right way for you.
The term enlightenment is a Western word that at times is used to describe a set of words in Buddhism that all have reference a 'awakening' or 'understanding'. This is the exact message that I am trying to outline here. That feeling that we should all be searching for of being at one with ourselves, and at one with what we are doing when making images. This feeling, and an artists ability to find it, is ever present in their work.
This is true for other forms of art. It is also true for any other passion that one has in life. And, as with artists and their work, others passions will benefit from generating the same level of understanding about what it is youre doing, why youre doing it, and what youre hoping to achieve as an end result. Its as much about the process, as it is about having a clear idea of what your final outcome will be, before you start.
For me, right this minute, the right way of making an image is using film. I dont know if the right camera for this task is the one that I have at the moment, but I am certainly starting to bond with it, and think that as our relationship develops, it will likely be the right tool for the job. The manual nature of the camera forces me to slow down, and think about what I am doing. It makes things just that little bit harder. I am in control, and if something doesnt work then its on me. Its not about the camera missing the focus point. Its not about the camera metering the scene incorrectly Its just me, I make the mistakes, and I am accountable.
I am learning through this method. Its a slow process. But here we reach the second part of this thought that I have been slowly forming. I have time. And I hopefully have a lot of it. I want to make sure that every time I spend some of the time that I do have, making images with my camera. I am doing it the right way for me. If I spend the time that I have doing it the right way, then I will be getting closer to the artistic enlightenment that I think we all should be seeking.
Right now I am really busy at work. I dont have a lot of spare time for shooting, so thats what was driving me to think about taking the digital camera the other day. Sure, the time it takes to make the images is the same if you shoot digital or analogue. But with digital you dont have the extra time that is required to process film, and then at the very least scan negatives. But for me, the right way to do things also involves that extra time consuming step of making prints in the darkroom. The conversation that I had with my friend that formed the catalyst for this post, was all about not getting stressed about the fact that you dont have time. Life is like that. Life is busy. We all have day jobs, and family commitments. But there is time if you make it. If you get stressed about finding this time, that stress will impact on your focus when you are doing that thing that you love to do. That stress will impact on your ability to feel that spiritual enlightenment with the process right at that time, and it will mean your images are not as good as they otherwise would have been.
Even if I am only able to shoot for a small block of time. Even if I am not able to do it everyday. I am going to do things the right way for me. I know what this right way is. I know that its not the easy way. I know that it will take me longer to get results that I am after. But I also know that its right. Its the way that provides me with the most satisfaction. Its the way I find most rewarding. And this reward is what we all should take from doing the things that we love to do.