To be a good photographer you need to live the vast spectrum of human experience
“Your days pass like rainbows, like a flash of lightning, like a star at dawn. Your life is short. How can you quarrel?” Buddha
Last night I arrived in Istanbul. I was greeted by a sultry, warm city. As we drove through the dark streets, illuminated by the many cafes and little shops, and into the ancient part of the city, Sultanahmet, I had to pinch myself. What a feeling of aliveness this city has.
Whilst I am in Istanbul my family has moved back to our little base in Spain. We have all felt the sting of displacement as we wave goodbye to my children’s sacred grandmother, and the large extended family and friends’ circle in England.
We weighed up the ups and downs of moving. Displacement is hard for children, hard too for us. But ultimately we pick Spain to be a base for us because of the incredible freedom we find here.
We know, too, that being human involves a whole spectrum of experiences – that sometimes the most incredible ones are also laced with sadness or the feeling of challenge.
In our little town by the beach, with good weather and friendly people, we find the chance to have the kind of family life we only dreamed about in London.
A life where we are in nature every day, where we can smell fresh air, where we can let the children run free. And for ourselves we are not in the thick of the dizzying pace of life of London.
We work hard wherever we are – but here it feels that we have time for life. We are not waiting for life to give us time, we have it right here.
I read an article recently on Brain Pickings about the writer Rainer Maria Rilke, that to me seemed to fit the spirit of where we are all at as a family, but also gave a wonderful insight into what we need as creative people.
He wrote that in order to be a writer (but let’s substitute photographer or any creative pursuit):
“For the sake of a few lines one must see many cities, men and things. One must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the small flowers open in the morning.
One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected meetings and to partings which one has long seen coming…
To childhood illness that so strangely began with a number of profound and grave transformations, to days in rooms withdrawn and quiet and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along on high and flew with all the stars — and it is not yet enough if one may think of all of this.
One must have memories of many nights of love, none of which was like the others, of the screams of women in labor…
But one must also have been beside the dying, one must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the fitful noises.”
It’s perhaps obvious to say, and too simple really, that to create something, anything, you must have experienced both the good and the bad in life. The light and the darkness of life feeds our minds and creates ideas.
But it is also saying that there are many other experiences between those highs and lows. The hundreds of train journeys we’ve taken, the nights we’ve held our sleepless baby and looked out onto the street, the darkness punctuated by warm globes of light; the endless washing up and cleaning of our dwellings.
All of our experiences are nourishment for the creative spirit, because:
“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty.” Rainer Maria Rilke
So to have a vast spectrum of experiences to draw from is what a rich creative life needs. Who knows what happens when it all gets mixed together in our minds, our histories and thoughts, our ideas and the places we go; what we will pick out of that unique mix, to create the things that we do.
The most important thing, of course, is that we do. We create. We say yes to our creativity.
Those are the thoughts and ideas I wanted to share with you today. I hope they provide something interesting to mull over as you contemplate what you could do with your photography today, tomorrow or in the days ahead.
Let us know in the comments below.
Anthony and Diana