SO…. SLOW DOWN AND LIVE A LITTLE.
One day, before you know it, you will reach the time of reckoning. You will sit at the edge of your bed and you will think about your life; whether it was fulfilling, lackluster, or somewhere in between. In today’s world it is easy to get lost in the endless feeds of content creation we call social media. A long list of stories that only a small handful of your “followers” actually give a damn about. We forget to be present, we forget to be ourselves, we attempt to create “content” that will resonate with the masses and get us a momentary spot of recognition before we are swallowed up by the endless tide of incoming posts.
I used to chase followers, thinking that they were important to build my career, until I had a small epiphany. They are called “followers” for a reason, to follow. If they controlled my path in life and photography, they would be called leaders… and I would be a slave to their demands.
I remember a time when I would spend hours in a dark room creating a tangible photographic print that could be held and viewed as a 3 dimensional piece of art. Nowadays, a vast majority of my images never leave the computer screen. They sit in a catalog of a thousand images on a hard drive in a place weirdly reminiscent of the island of forgotten toys from the classic Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer tale. Those images had their moment on the endless social media train, some of which received momentary glory before being tossed aside for the next new image. Now they collect digital dust and may never be seen again.
What does this all have to do with a photography blog post and reaching the inevitable end of the road?
Last week, as I sat in Yellowstone National Park staring at a sunset that was so beautiful it practically rendered me speechless, I had an epiphany. I realized I was constantly trying to create content for the next social media post instead of creating work for myself, work that resonated with me. Because I had been creating work for the momentary pleasure of strangers, I had stopped seeing and enjoying for myself. It had become a wash, rinse, repeat cycle form of creation and I wasn’t getting any joy from the incredibly beautiful scene playing out in front of me. The pungent smell of the sulphuric gases fuming from the geysers, the interaction of steam and cloud, of light and shadow; I was viewing the scene as if I were behind a screen. I wasn’t present in the moment. I was too focused on “content creation”, and that is a travesty.
So in that moment I stopped shooting wildly, walked away from a mediocre composition, took a deep breath and studied the interactions occurring in front of me. I felt the warm steam as the south eastwardly blowing wind pushed the water vapors towards me and up over the hillside behind. I watched the light dance across the shallow pools of water on the delicate surface of the geyser basin. I listened to the water as it bubbled up through the geyser pools, steadily releasing sulphuric gases into the atmosphere. I reminded myself I was standing on the worlds largest volcanic hotspot, and of the power it held beneath the surface.
I set my camera back up and took one photograph. Just one.
As a photographer I made the decision that I want my images to resonate with me first, with the experience and feeling I had within that moment. I want my images to speak to me, to make me feel, to wonder. Like the artists’ work I adorned my walls with as a budding adult, I want my images to inspire me. If I can create images that provoke those feelings within me, then those same images are bound to provoke the same sense of wonder in others.
Let’s tie this all back into this posts title.
Life is a blur, so slow down, be present, and experience the subtle nuances of the many places you will find yourself as you write your life story. If you are an artist, create for yourself first, your creations will speak louder, and in turn get noticed by those that matter. You will feel more fulfilled at the end of the day and when your judgement day comes you can say, “ I experienced my life, and in doing so, created something meaningful, something lasting. I was present each and every day and made true connections with others, and with the planet around me. I lived.”
In that moment, I reignited the fire of exploration, discovery, and creation within me and am excited to slow down and experience the many, many events and places that will shape me as I continue to get older.