MY PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY PART 4: PHILOSOPHY OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Learning to use a manual camera and everything that comes with it was life changing, and it not only effected my time abroad but it has also continued to effect my life philosophy now that I have returned.
My Pentax taught me the beauty of impermanence. All things in life are impermanent, hence the beauty of them; the flowers that bloom in spring would not be so beautiful if they were such all year round. With my manual camera I learned that nothing is for sure and nothing is forever; things will invariably go wrong and you must be prepared for that. During my very first day photographing with my Pentax in Paroikia my entire roll of film was ruined: all those things that I had experienced and seen for the first time were gone, never to be printed or seen on a contact sheet. Yet, because they were gone, I appreciated my day spent photographing even more and was grateful that I had dedicated so much time to it, really soaking in the objects and people that I had photographed. Impermanence is not what makes us unhappy, it is trying to fool ourselves that some things are permanent that makes us unhappy, for eventually these things will go away.
Another life lesson that my Pentax taught me was how to be alone. Good photography is a solitary pursuit, especially with a manual camera. As I said before, manual photography is time-consuming and detail-oriented, two things that are best experienced alone. If you’re in a large group of people who are all chatting and flitting about then you’re much more likely to be swept up in the kinetic energy of it all, rather than sitting and observing and truly photographing. The United States has a culture that celebrates the extroverts, those who never stop moving and always have something to say. My time photographing in Greece really drove home the fact that there is power in the introvert, in those quite moments of bliss when you’re alone with your thoughts and free to capture the beauty of the sea without having to answer or explain yourself to anyone.
I also learned how to better be present and in the moment thanks to my experiences with manual photography. Due to the attention to detail that is needed in manual photography, being fully present is of the utmost importance. A good photographer needs to be aware enough to study the subject, anticipate a shot, and take a photo without a second thought because they know the frame so well. Truly watching things and people is something that we can so often forget and take for granted, hurrying from one place to the next without a second look at the gorgeous cloud formation or piece of public art that just went up. Becoming one with my manual camera in Greece has helped me become far more present in my day-to-day life now that I have returned.
With a camera in your hand, exploration is inevitable. A strong photographer must be willing to take a new path and hunger for new sights and experiences. Due to the solitary nature of photography, a photographer also ends up not just exploring the world around them, but the world inside themselves as well. It is through external exploration that one achieves an understanding of the world, and it is through internal exploration that one often finds inner peace and a deep sense of spiritual harmony. A combination of these two types of exploration eventually leads to a better understanding of ones own nature as well as where one fits in the world, as was the case with me in Greece. I took the time to not only explore the wonders of the island, but through that I also explored my own thoughts, reactions, feelings, and musings that eventually led me to a much more rich understanding of myself and my desired life-path.
My Pentax also taught me the value of waiting. Culture in the United States revolves around a sense of immediacy: I want a brownie now, I want the newest iPhone now, I want a new dress now, I want to be happy now. This need for instant gratification, however, only serves to make people unhappier in the long run because they have never had to practice patience or hard-work, they have never had to wait. The entire experience of manual photography revolves around waiting: waiting to find the perfect shot, waiting for the right moment to snap the photo, waiting to finish your roll of film, waiting for the film to develop, waiting for a contact sheet of your photographs, and then waiting for just the right print of your favorite photo. Not only does this waiting instill a sense of patience in you, it also makes your final product that much more worth it. After days of suspense, finally printing a full sized product of your photograph is one of the most gratifying feelings in the world.
I arrived at HISA wanting to be challenged and get of out my comfort zone, and that’s exactly what I got. Through my months of working with Maria and learning all I could about manual photography I have been forever changed. Not only has my photographic style been altered, but my entire mindset about the art form has as well. Taking a manual photography class helped me to get the most out of my semester in Greece because I was constantly studying my surroundings, exploring new areas, and talking to people about the photos I was taking. These photographic lessons have continued to effect me even now that I’m back in the United States. The philosophy of photography is something very powerful that only those who take the time to experience it will ever truly understand.