This is the question that was asked of me some months ago and that keeps coming back to re-play in my head. It’s not so much that it bothers me - I don’t take photos for a living or even make money from my photography. It’s more that it surprised me. It forced me to look at what I do from the perspective of those who know me best.
I’ve always been a passionate person and my interests (obsessions) have led me down many alleys, nooks and crannies of exploration. For the past few years, photography has been my boulevard of choice (and, yes, sometimes dreams). When an interest takes me like this, I want to know as much as I can about it. I immerse myself in its history, its culture, its traditions - I want to know what it feels like, to taste it, to live it. Books, galleries, the internet … anything can support my habit. Taking photos and editing them is drinking from the source.
I suppose that is what I have been doing. So, while friends and peers are of an age where they are having a quiet morning with the cafetière, hot buttered toast and the Sunday papers, I will be catching the early train to the big city hoping to return a few hours later with a camera full of more images than you can shake a selfie-stick at before I get a chance to go and do the same thing again.
Too old for this kind of thing?
So, okay, fair enough. What am I trying to achieve?
It does have a slight ring of "Aren’t you a bit old for this kind of thing?” and it is true that most street photographers who I follow (and who follow me) on instagram are 20 years (gulp - two decades) younger than me. Not that that should bother me - there are no age restrictions to developing a good eye or understanding the exposure triangle, or indeed breaking any of the rules that aren’t actually rules and that need breaking anyway (ahem). I digress. Maybe it’s more that most of my peers don’t feel the passion that I feel or the excitement for learning new skills, seeing things in new ways and, most importantly, having a chance to be creative.
That is what is at the heart of it for me. Being creative. I have realised over the course of my life, that the creative urge is more of a creative need in me. I need to feel creative to feel complete - to be me.
There’s a great deal of talk about mindfulness and mental health these days. For me, I know that the creative process is key to my mental health. It is where I go to be mindful. It just so happens that it is street photography that provides that creative process.
Passion is an important idea here. Shooting street does bring out a passion in me. That doesn’t mean it always is easy or always pleasurable. Remember passion, as a word, has its root in the Latin for “suffering.” So if we are passionate about something, we are putting more into it than is absolutely necessary. How many times have you spent a day shooting only to feel that what you’ve shot is rubbish and all you have to show for it is a thinner sole on your trainers?
What am I trying to achieve? I do it because I have to.
It feeds me.
It completes me.
How about you? Some weeks ago I asked my instagram followers this question and I will be sharing further thoughts soon. If you’d like to comment, please feel free. I look forward to hearing from you.