The pandemic having made introverts of us all, the question arises: How to re-engage with the world?
Well, you’re on a photography site, so the answer should be easy: Go take some photos.
For all my talk about photography as art, photography is also a gateway, a passport, an excuse!
Want to talk to someone in your life? Ask to take their picture. Want to go on a trip, but find yourself coming up short on things to do? Go take a picture. Finding the world too loud? Go take a picture. Finding your own thoughts too loud? Go take a picture.
Many friends of mine have voiced their concern that they’ve forgotten how to talk with people. For me, there’s no better way to open a conversation than by taking a camera out. I especially like the conversations that start when I pull out my old Polaroid—almost everyone asks “what’s that?” or “where do you even find film for that?”
During a recent surf trip to Costa Rica, I found myself surrounded by fellow surfers… but how to start a conversation, how to break the ice? I did what I’ve done so many times, I introduced myself, and asked if I could take their picture.
And once you’ve started there, you can take the conversation wherever you want. Driving to the beach, I took a Polaroid of someone sharing our van, and their question about the camera started us on a solid twenty-minute conversation about instant film, corporate takeovers, and the rise of digital photography. Part of the fun of the trip was getting a Polaroid of the people I was meeting and talking about their memories of instant film.
In my experience, the answer to so many problems of our modern world can be solved by placing a camera between ourselves and the problem at hand. Because the camera, in addition to being a recording device, is a Reason. A reason to ask questions, to go places, to see people. A reason to strike up a conversation with someone who intrigues you, or someone you’ve been estranged from. A reason to make a slight detour in your trip for a particularly scenic locale.
For the Costa Rica trip, I brought my trusty Polaroid camera, but also some disposable underwater cameras. Not every moment in the ocean involves riding waves, and during those quiet moments, I savored the scenery by photographing it. I noticed how the sunset transformed the water’s normal blue to a shifting palette of pinks and purples, how the colors of the ocean melded with the colors of the sky. It was hypnotic, and I found myself just sitting in the water, taking it all in.
The key here is that engaging in the act of photography transports us, and in doing so, it also makes a safe space of wherever we are, because we are making art, recording memories. We’re now acting, engaging. We’re active where previously we were passive.
Photographing something can take us out of the anxiety of the moment. It gives us a focus, while taking the pressure off of the aspect of our lives that causes us trepidation. Instead we get to focus on taking the picture, directing the subject, framing the shot, adjusting the exposure, or any of the dozens of choices involved in capturing a photo.
Photography opens the door to any number of experiences, bypassing fear of the unknown by allowing us… if you’ll forgive me… a filter through which to better manage those experiences.
It is both gateway and guide. If you don’t believe me… go outside and take a picture!
Have you ever used photography to connect with specific people? Maybe old friends you hadn’t seen in a while, maybe folks you’d been curious about but hesitant to reach out to. Let me know in this discussion.