How do you fit photography into your life? And perhaps that should be stated real life: the life where you must eat, sleep, and take care of basic things like making sure you have food to eat and a roof over your head. Those things can require a lot of attention and time.
Photography is not a full time career for me. And I think even professional photographers (which is hard to define, but let’s just say it’s someone who earns a living from photography) have a difficult time putting real photography as a significant and meaningful activity into their lives.
And by real photography I mean the creative act of engaging visually with your environment and then, fast-forwarding through a lot of details, making meaningful images…. images that satisfy your creative itch. Images that fulfill something important deep inside your mind or heart.
I frequently want to go out and engage in a meaningful, creative act involving a camera in some manner, but then I’m usually faced with a daily schedule full of daily responsibilities combined with the schedules of my family and the things they need to do. Photography then takes a much lower priority on the big list, i.e. shit I gotta get done today.
I could say I’m a victim of regular, real life. Everything important to keeping my life and family going happily forward takes time and effort and most days I can’t spare even a moment to pick up a camera to do something meaningful and creative with it. But saying victim implies that the situation is out of my control, and it’s not despite how it might feel.
So what can be done?
Making some changes is an obvious path forward, but there are some things I cannot change and others that I don’t want to change. My family keeps me pretty busy and I happen to really like them
Photography, unlike a lot of other activities and hobbies, is quite unique. It can be done as a primary activity or secondary as you perform some other activity. It can even be done without a camera.
Uh… wait. No camera?
Right, no camera.
The important part of making an image is dialing-into something that interests you and thinking and visualizing how you might take a picture of it.
It can be anything. An interesting shadow. A caterpillar hidden away beneath some leaf in the landscaping outside of a building. Two people holding hands walking ahead of you on a sidewalk.
You see it. You engage with it in your thoughts. You enjoy the details and start working out a composition and think about how you’d make an image of it. You visualize the shot or a combination of shots to capture it.
That part of the photographic process is the significant and important part of producing an image. The rest is kind of technical and involves actually using a camera to capture the image you’ve visualized in your mind.
You can do this front-end process (everything but the camera) over and over easily as you go about your busy day.
Yesterday I was busy. There was work (occupies about 11 – 12 hours of my day, typically), exercise, dinner, a few things to fix at home, time with my family, etc. A fairly typical day.
As I rode my bike I tried to think about photography. I enjoyed details here and there as rode past. But I passed them on purpose. I had to be home at a certain time and I did not want to stop and take a picture. (As a side note, I’ve put an priority on getting exercise because I really need it. So it is a conscious decision that puts my health first… because I’m now 40-something and my flabby middle section is not doing me any favors.)
During the ride, of all the things that attracted my attention, I really enjoyed seeing my shadow in front of me and how it changed depending on the direction of the path. As the sun set behind me my shadow grew and spread out in front of me. It was a simple sight but interesting.
And thinking about it was refreshing as well as mentally beneficial. Rather than letting my mind chew on the details of my day and the plans that are ahead, I explored creative thoughts.
I did take the shadow idea to the next step just because I did have a camera with me and didn’t have to stop to do it. It was a quick technical execution to capture the image I’d been visualizing.
I finished my ride and went home to wrap up my busy day. But the collective few minutes that I engaged in the photographic process (or at least part of it) was nice.
All of this is mostly advice for me – to remind me to keep doing this because I enjoy it.