I have a strong desire to document my life. Not necessarily my everyday experiences and errands or even special events, but just things that I see. Some people document other people, some their travels and adventures, but I like to document simplicities and complexities in the natural world around me. Sometimes photos act as bookmarks or postcards of moments and days, that capture certain memories or thoughts within them. Hence my desire to constantly be taking photos – to establish a timeline of my life in the photos that I take.
I have heard several people say (photographers or other creatives mostly) to carry a camera with you wherever you go. Because you never know when a photo opportunity could pop up, and it helps you to document even the small moments in life. But I’m not sure that attitude is always a good thing to carry around in your mind. I think that always having a camera invites you to turn experiences into a creative endeavour, that weren’t originally supposed to be, which then can take away from their original purpose or intention. Similarly, I think keeping a notebook by your bed for jotting down midnight ideas, encourages you to continue thinking of ideas into the night, even though you’re supposed to be sleeping.
But that’s not what I wanted to write about today. I wanted to write about the fact that this idea of always having a camera with me, has caused me to feel a certain pressure that I should always have my camera with me, and that everything I do could offer a photo opportunity. Usually I only bring a camera with me when I go somewhere with the intention of taking photos, since both are either heavy or expensive and not something I want to ‘chuck in my bag and forget about unless the opportunity arises’. Also, if I have it with me, I feel compelled to actively use it. But I think it’s a good thing to not have it with me all the time because it leaves room to have experiences outside of a creative mindset and simply gives the brain a break. It allows me to be mindful of the time spent with friends and family, and to be grateful and fully immersed in the moment without having to interrupt the flow with: ‘oh wait I want to take a picture of that!’. But if only I was satisfied with that mindset.
I kick myself if I end up in a spontaneously perfect photo location without my camera. I find myself wishing that I had it instead of appreciating the moment as it is, and being mindful, as I was just talking about. Whenever I am planning a simple day out I am thinking about whether I should bring my camera ‘just in case’. Because I am scared of missing out on a good photo if a chance presents itself. That’s right, I have FOMO over encountering the perfect shot while on an ordinary day out. Most people get FOMO about whether they’re missing out on those amazing sights on an over-seas trip, or a music festival, or a party or some other wild experience. But no, my thought is literally: ‘should I lug this rather heavy camera around all day just in case I see a good photo?’.
The answer is no. No I shouldn’t. I just need to accept the fact that I won’t be able to photograph everything ‘photo-worthy’ that I ever see in life. The thing still exists if I don’t photograph it. But I want to make it mine. But surely it is my duty to myself to find beauty in the world around me, without feeling the pressure to photograph it every single time. I should be able to watch a sun set without having to whip my camera out. The sun sets every day! Maybe some things should be allowed to be beautiful just for the sake of being beautiful.
I think that taking my camera everywhere I go is just an unnecessary attempt at multitasking. It turns every experience into a confusing mixing pot of intentions. Like, am I going to lunch to spend time with my boyfriend or because on the way there might be a nice photo? I will admit, I take my iPhone with me everywhere, which does have a decent camera. And I do use it, but usually to quickly capture something that is interesting or amusing to me, and not to take more ‘serious’ photos for ‘art’.
My main point here is that I need to stop feeling a need to 1. take my camera everywhere and 2. worrying that I’ll miss out on a good photo when I don’t have it. Not every beautiful thing I see has to be documented in a frame because it can be documented in my memory if I simply enjoy and absorb it. Or I can document it in words, or on another day. Not everything is quite such an urgent matter as my thoughts make them out to be.