The skill I use every day as a photographer
Today is Thanksgiving in the US, and although I haven’t lived there for twenty years and we don’t celebrate it here in Europe, when I am reminded of that word – Thanks…giving – I am reminded me of the awesome power of being thankful, grateful, appreciative of the gifts in my life right now.
To take a pause, a small moment to ask – what should I give thanks for in my life right now?
I am of course supremely grateful for many things – most of all my family. My wild and delicious family who give me unbelievable love and support. I am thankful for other things – friends, our beautiful lives in Spain, good health and, of course, this amazing business that we run.
And I am intensely grateful for photography.
Photography has given me a radically wonderful creative licence to be completely connected to life.
It has helped me perfect a skill that brings so much good into my life. It is what makes me a good photographer.
And this skill is about being completely present, completely in the moment.
Because, you can’t see and capture good photos unless you’re connected to what’s happening around you, in the present moment.
And what a gift photography is in the pursuit of presence.
It gives us the excuse to be paying attention to the world around us.
It gives us an excuse to reject a life of incessant doing.
To sit, wander, walk, explore – and just look.
And when you are looking – you are looking with full engagement with what you are looking at.
(Because of course you can be ‘looking’ but lost in your thoughts. Like when you drive home and think, how did I get here?)
This pursuit of living in the present moment so that you can see more for your photography brings a ripple effect into your life.
It shows you how we can waste our lives with constant thoughts of the future, with constant distraction.
And being in the future with all of its worries and feelings of expectations – that’s not living!
Why not instead live right now. Be here now. Be here in this body, in this life that is throbbing and full of experiences.
Not lost in thoughts, in the mind.
We don’t want to just pass through this world, on its surface, consuming.
We want to create, to feel and to really, truly see what is here, to be deeply connected to this vast, beautiful and messy world.
Let us be prepared to stand and notice.
And this for me is the crux – we have this opportunity in every single moment, to be awake, completely awake to life.
This for me is the biggest gift of photography.
It’s the opposite sensation to feeling that hours just disappear, or the day being a blur of activity, of life racing away from you.
It’s being aware of the sensation of the moment.
Not the sensation of life speeding past you.
And it can start with this simple question – can you be present for your life?
Can you inhabit it, live it fully to its edges. Live it with its myriad of amazing opportunities?
This is what photography can bring. This is a skill I use every day as a photographer. To be alive and awake to this very moment.
Of course sometimes I am lost in my own world of stress or overthinking.
We all have lives that bring stress and anguish into our lives, worries and anxieties that can fill our minds and spirits – we are all human, all fallible. There is plenty to bring us to the darker sides of life.
But we can reject the worries and thoughts of tomorrow – even if it’s just for a short while.
An hour, an afternoon, a day can also let us be grateful for all of those normal, every day, ordinary moments.
Those moments where nothing is really happening (but of course when you are looking, you’ll see that so much is happening.)
Those moments waiting for traffic or for a meeting to start or as you are waiting for the kettle to boil.
Fall into awareness instead of onto your phone or into obsessive thinking.
Celebrate the dull, the ordinary, the every-day moments.
Life is a collection of moments – be present for them.
I would love to know what you think – are you living in the present? Have you cultivated a feeling of being awake and alive in the moment – and has it helped your photography?
It’s always great to hear from you.
Anthony and Diana
29/11/2019 @ 11:46 PM
Thank you Anthony for your inspiring write-ups. It’s gratifying to know that someone else does the same thing you do and so passionately too.
I never want a moment to pass by without notice. Using my smartphone has helped a great deal in living and capturing the moment . Looking at the shots periods after also helps to re-live the moments.
You are doing a great job.
31/12/2019 @ 12:15 PM
Thank you Boye. I hope you have a creative 2020.
28/11/2019 @ 4:58 PM
Thank you, Anthony. You put into words so much of what I feel about photography and about life itself. When we approach the world as you suggest it opens our eyes to so many amazing things that we would have otherwise missed. I will also say that, at least in my case, I have to sometimes remind myself to put the camera down and just enjoy where I am instead of looking for the next shot. Still, I wouldn’t give up the camera and the resulting creativity for anything. It’s all about finding balance. Happy Thanks-giving!
31/12/2019 @ 12:17 PM
Seems we photographers are so much alike – the passion for the craft but not at the expense of the experience of living in wonder and joy.