Is Photography Pointless Right Now?
How are you? How is life where you are?
Di and I have been talking a lot about the meaning of photography recently. I suppose it’s being inside so much. It feels like we are being faced with: what is important and what isn’t in our lives.
It’s a bit of a soul searching time, isn’t it?
We have talked about how not all activities and not all experiences are the same.There are activities we do in our lives that are pure distraction. They offer us very little in terms of long term impact or deep satisfaction.
I would say watching the news, or most TV, or scrolling endlessly on Facebook fall into this category.
Hanging out with some people would also fall into this category – when we spend time with people whom we don’t find nourishing or who are at odds with who we are.
It’s like eating junk food, it’s nice at the time, but it doesn’t nourish your body. Afterwards you are left feeling unsatisfied, because the fat & the salt don’t nourish your body, but create a sensation of lack.
Then there are activities in our lives that bring us a deep feeling of satisfaction. They seem to fill our bodies, and our minds and spirits, with warm and deep sensations.
Spending time with people we really enjoy and appreciate.
Doing work we love.
Finding something we are passionate about and pursuing it.
Spending time in nature, seeing the beauty of the world, and it’s ever changing fascination.
And it is in this category that I think photography fits.
When we are taking photos we are spending more time being aware of the world. We are moving away from that take-away, distraction-led world.
We are moving away from the temporary, surface activities that are fun for a while but bring us nothing really deeply meaningful.
When we are taking photos we are actually making an effort to be here in this world. To have experiences that mean more to us than the meaningless things that are on offer elsewhere.
I have to make an effort every day to choose meaningful experiences over distraction.
I love distraction, I will be honest. I love to get involved in the drama of the news and politics, I love to see the weird and wonderful things people share on Facebook, I love to get involved in TV series, and live a little through the worlds of others.
I am prone to distraction.
And that’s because I am a human being with the same stresses and ups and downs as the next human.
I have responsibilities to look after my family, I have to keep calm when my kids declare war on each other, I have to make dinner when I am exhausted, I have to deal with clients who forget to pay, insurance companies who are intractable, toilets that break, landlords who are stressed.
You know, all the normal stuff.
My concerns and my worries generate at a normal rate and get added to the ongoing heap of worries and concerns.
And distraction is a wonderful, seductive way to escape that mound of worries – I will be honest. I like a little time of the day to just escape from these ongoing thoughts.
And I am OK with that.
But I know that my distractions should be contained because they don’t solve anything. They don’t remove any of the worries from my heap.
But you know what can? All the things I mentioned above, and…
As Picasso said: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
When I am walking through a forest, free of human noise, but alive with the sounds of nature – birds chirping, the crunch of twigs under my foot, the rustle of leaves in the occasional gusts of wind.
When I am walking through a busy city, not with any destination in mind, with no deadlines, I am free to experience the pulsating energy that thrives in its streets. I am free to witness, as Elliott Erwitt said, the ‘comedy of the human experience’.
I am free, too, to really see the history and human imprint and the stories of the city. The buildings that people toiled to create, the vision of its architects, the beautiful and scenic, as well as the dirt and the shock of the urban.
This is so important to me because when I am removed from my mind and my pile of worries, when I am making an effort to not be confined to the limitations that my mind says my life is, I am free to completely bask in all the experiences this world can offer.
The fierce energy of the sea on a stormy day.
The exquisite peace of the mountains as I walk with my family.
The opulent, sensual beauty of summer flowers.
Would I work to experience the world in such a deep way if I wasn’t taking photos?
Would I make the effort to drink in the beauty of the world when it was offered to me?
Would I search out experiences, like asking an old man in Istanbul if I could take his portrait?
Would I make such a tremendous effort to be in this world, rather than just constantly on the surface, thinking about it?
No. No, I don’t think I would.
Diane Arbus said photography was like a license, and for her that license was a reason to approach people she found fascinating and ask them if she could take their portrait.
For me it’s a licence to sometimes get up at 3am to go photograph the full moon.
Or take a wander through the Paris streets and find interesting characters to shoot.
It often involves conversations with people who ask me what I am shooting, and sometimes, take me to interesting places, like up an ancient clock tower in Venice to watch someone fix an old clock.
So while we while away our time in lockdown, whether we are busy or not, it feels like now, more than ever, photography feels important.
Photography has given me my entire way of living, my entire philosophy of who I am. It has made my life interesting and wonderful in so many ways – even when my life felt more challenging that I could possibly deal with.
At times of grief or pain, of sadness or fear – it has brought me outside of myself and nourished my spirit so that I felt stronger and more able to see what was important.
It has also shown me that nothing lasts forever.
Overall it shows me that life, and everything in it, is to be valued in all forms.
That is what photography has done for me.
It is with these ideas, these passions that Di and I have created our latest photography project.
We wanted to create a space online where everything that we love about photography will be shared with you.
All of the creative lessons I have learned, married with the technical lessons to make your photography vision a reality.
I have poured my heart and soul, and my 30+ years of photo knowledge and experience into this project. – and will continue to do so in the months and years to come.
I have shared all of my passion for this medium that has brought so much to me, and to so many others.
The ability, the licence, to see the world anew every day.
I want to share with you how you too can become effortlessly confident with your camera.
How you can connect with your inner artist.
How you can bring everything that you are, and know and love, into your photography.
And ultimately let photography keep bringing you that deep, beautiful satisfaction that you get from nothing else.
I would love, love, love you to join our new photography community.
There is only 2 days left to get the very special founding members price.
Already there is a fantastic collection of people who have joined.
We would love to meet you there too.
Any questions about the membership, just hit reply.
You’ll find the details here too, and can sign up to this amazing new and very inspiring community.
Stay Safe. Stay Creative.
Anthony and the woman who puts all of these ideas and thoughts into beautiful words, my spectacular wife, Diana