Slowing Down

Chaos is unsettling for me. I'm not speaking about the chaos of a bustling city or a sporting event. Those environments posses a unique rhythm that carries across continents. I'm referring to the chaos that permeates our everyday lives. Firstly for me, it's when things are out of order at home. I'm a strong believer of the maxim: "A place for everything and everything in its place." It's time-efficient and keeps things simple so I can focus on things that matter like spending time with family and creating. Secondly (and perhaps now more importantly), being an IT professional has proven too chaotic for me. There's this constant pull in many directions and multitasking becomes a necessary evil that's almost praised. I've realized that while it's easy to learn and make a decent living in the field, it's not the proper fit for me; there is no creative expression. It's become an unhealthy physical and emotional drain for me to make a living doing something against my nature. Pablo Picasso's famous quote reflects my exact mindset these days: “Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time.  Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.” Needing an outlet was part of the reason I explored photography again. Ultimately, I think it's just something that was meant to pursue and I just lost my way.

Prior to, and for months after I bought my Olympus OM-D E-M5, I also bought every photography magazine I could get my hands on. I bought books as well, but due to the higher cost, I was far more selective. As a result, I don't regret any of those purchases. With the magazines, I'm in the process of culling them from my bookshelf much the way I now clean house in Lightroom. In both cases I think it's indicative of growth. The magazines I'm tossing cover everything from new gear, to lighting a shoot, with many articles beginning with: "10 Best Ways to [enter photographic aspiration here]." With Lightroom, I'm finding that images I would have considered keeping two years ago get trashed promptly after import and viewing on a proper screen. I've gone from a period where I just wanted to quickly take in all that I could, to realizing that most of it is noise. With all the noise, it's impossible to see, and impossible to decide which direction you should follow. After slowing down, I've realized a few things:

  1. I genuinely love photography far more than my day job
  2. I'm primarily drawn to portraits and fine art
  3. Patience and focus beats Photoshop
  4. I'd be just fine if my digital camera didn't have video capability, nor maybe even burst mode.
  5. A high-quality, professional print is like Christmas for me
  6. I still have quite a bit to learn, and I'm happy about that

This isn't to say that I've found a "style" yet--that's another story.

I'm currently reading and meditating on "The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes" by Andy Karr and Michael Wood. It's a phenomenal book so far in that it's teaching me as much about life as it is photography. It calls out the chaos in our lives and asks: "Why?" What makes it necessary to check email and send text messages so often? Where's the crime in sitting still and quietly collecting your thoughts? For me, that is where creation lives. I've drifted very far away from it over the last ten years, but now it's very clear to me how important occasional stillness is to health and the creative process.