It is not often that a funeral, wedding, or large event in my family goes by in which photos are not taken, reviewed, or reminisced over. Photos play a huge part in cataloging my family and keeping track of the years and events. Photos have a way of taking on an emotional identity and they are cherished for many years. We make them into books, hang them on our walls, and make slideshows to tell a story. It is this emotional quality that photos embody that is of great interest to me. When my family comes together to look at photos of passed loved ones, celebrations of marriages, and new children born, there is an element of unveiling the parts of us that hold on to long lost sentiments. In this way, I believe that photos, and the act of taking them, are fundamentally therapeutic. This is an idea that is not new – photography and art therapy does exist. The question in my mind this morning as I walked was, what if we paired the idea of photo-therapy with being outside?
In the thick of chaos and turmoil, when my life has been rocked, turned, and tossed around, it’s hard for me to see the next turn. It’s hard to remember my roots and who’s on my team. I forget what is good for me and turn to things that are available and easy. I lose sight of my goals and find my life seemingly out-of-control. Perhaps this can be likened to the wilderness – that massive presence all around us that I spend a lot of my day ignoring. Because the thing is, nature is unpredictable. It is an enormous expanse of chaos that plays by its own rules. It is wild, dangerous, and erratic. When the wilderness gets going it can really do some damage – rivers bring down our bridges and storms flood our houses.
Yet it is exactly this place of wild chaos that I come to seek solace. It is one of the few places of stillness that can match the ache for quiet and peace within me. The wilderness has much to teach me about where I came from, why I’m here, and my purpose in life. It can remind me to slow down and take in the beauty of the moment. It demonstrates the power of the spiritual presence that surrounds my life with guidance, strength, and companionship. It is in the wilderness that I take my camera out for a walk.
In the midst of the chaos of unknown, I look through the lens for a little perspective. The angle in which I shoot, the distance I stand, and the way I place my object into thirds can all change the feel of the photo. Some photos dive into the darkness; displaying the parts of the wilderness that are scary and unseen. They can reveal the awesome power of nature in its relentless ways; reminding me of my insignificant size. Photos can also demonstrate light, and the joy that is found in a natural space. They can emphasize life that springs organically from the earth in surprising places. The importance is that I, as the photographer, get to choose my perspective. No matter what life has thrown my way, I have the choice to see light or absence of light.The Camera
My camera is my tool box. Everything I need is at my fingertips. The breadth of my knowledge gives me freedom for creativity and the depth of my knowledge creates the quality in photo. My camera gives me as little or as much control of the incoming light as I’d like. During a day of feeling like I am “out of control”, my camera gives me a bit of the power back. I have a layout of my choices and I manipulate it. I am the artist of my life. This is a skill I have earned and there are no wrong answers. In my camera bag are the miscellaneous gadgets I’m beginning to collect. These are my team members, the tools and people I’ve met along my journey who are there to help me.The Picture
The picture I produce is my expression. I’ve dived into the chaos, chosen my perspective, allowed the camera to be my instrument for control and choice, and now I have creativity made manifest. The picture is my journal entry, my landmark, and my snapshot in the world. There is no right or wrong picture. There is no right or wrong way to take a picture. It is created from within and is mine to share. I have discovered the piece of nature that resonates with me and so in small ways I am beginning to discover myself. The more photos I take, the more confident I become in my ability and willingness to share.The Story
There is nothing like putting my story together in a creative and meaningful way that doesn’t lend itself to a little bit of therapy. A string of photos in a blog post, a photo book, or even a post or two on Facebook allows me to start placing who I am and where I’ve been in the world. When done thoughtfully, it can be a wonderfully introspective task. The chaotic places in my story that are dark with intensity are being acknowledged. The pieces of joy and light are displayed and highlighted with a sense of achievement or reminisce. It’s important to me to share my story; and to listen to others. It is how I learn, grow, and form my values. In sharing I acknowledge my shortcomings and nurture my strengths. It is the story telling that gives the wild things in my life perspective and meaning.