I’ve forgotten to take my camera along with me a lot this summer. On at least five separate occasions, in my eagerness to go explore or in the excitement of our preparations, I drove away from home only to realize upon arriving that I left my camera behind. It’s frustrated me and at times induced me to wonder at my legitimacy as a photographer…I mean, what kind of photographer forgets her camera?!?!?
On one hand, I have been beginning to feel a surge of creative energy over the last few weeks that I have come to believe is a direct result of having spent most of my summer not being especially creative. I’ve believed all along in the importance of creative rest, but hadn’t realized until I spent a couple of months rafting instead of creating that I was in dire need of it. Not that I haven’t been creating at all- on the contrary, I have doodled in my sketchbook and scribbled away in my journal and dipped my toes into art that I don’t make my living from and, of course, I’ve maintained this blog. But I have done very little work for clients this summer and that break, I’ve come to see, was very necessary for my long term creative health. I suddenly feel energized to experiment and push myself, and doing some writing and shooting only for myself has allowed me to step away from “safe” work and allow failure to return to my process. It’s thrilling, really.
On the other hand, this camera-forgetting has also reminded me what it can feel like to simply have an experience without any requirement to capture it. I consider the noticing that photography has taught me to be one of the great gifts of my life and very often my camera is the tool that best allows me to move past the superficial and truly see. But sometimes that same camera can create a barrier between me and experience, allowing me to keep my distance on the edges instead of fully engaging. And, even more disturbing, is when I catch myself in the photo-or-it-didn’t-happen mindset, the idea that the value of my experience is somehow diminished by my lack of photographic evidence to present to the public. What blarney. To be deeply embedded in a moment, to cry-laugh with new friends in the light from a campfire or to stand by the edge of an alpine lake and share the awe of the Milky Way’s perfect reflection on its silver surface doesn’t require public approval in order to be treasured. Photos are photos and have their own power, but memories are memories and the two are not interchangeable terms. Sometimes it’s simply worth making a memory and missing a photograph.
Maybe I’m simply justifying my own laziness or forgetfulness, but I suspect more has been behind this forgetting of my camera this summer. As the season begins to shift and the very first hints of autumn’s impending beginning nip at the early morning air, I feel my own shifting. A readiness to return to the work, to pick up what I briefly put down, to dig in deeper than ever before. Sometimes we must step back in order to move forward…it’s a simple truth that takes me by surprise again and again. But truth it is and I am no more exempt from it than any other. We cannot produce without end, without break, if we want our truest and most creative work to pour forth. And we cannot always remain on the edges of experiences, capturing but not fully participating, if we want depth and meaning and life to infuse our work.
So...sometimes I forget my camera.
I did remember to bring it along a few times, so here is a bit of miscellany from the last month or so...