I used to carry my camera with me everywhere I went.
My father and I would go on photography adventures, driving somewhere simply to take pictures for hours and hours.
Over the years, my husband learned simply to pull the car over when I started yelling, "stop!" in the middle of a drive because I spotted the perfect blanket of light on a field.
I was even into the editing (digital). I joined the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and attended a conference up in Chicago.
And then I stopped.
My father died, my NAPP membership expired, and my camera stayed in its bag.
There were so many reasons for stopping photography, hundreds of reasons that had bloomed from seeds that had been planted long before.
As digital photography became popular, there were no end to the cynics of the medium. It started off as digital vs. film -- that film is much greater quality, that one doesn't truly understand photography until they've worked in a darkroom, that digital photography is cheapening the art of photography.
I heard those complaints. They planted a few seeds. But I didn't pay too much attention. After all, digital photography had so many benefits that I simply considered film another art form...and to each his or her own.
Ah, but the snarky comments didn't stop there.
In magazines and online, and sometime even in person, I heard the dismissal that "EVERYONE" now considers themselves a photographer.
Those who made their living by taking photos were getting upset, perhaps rightfully so, that everyone who owned a digital camera could call themselves a "photographer".
There were strong words tossed around about what makes a "real" photographer and what constitutes a "real" photograph.
And against my better wishes, I listened.
I started taking more photographs of my kids and less of nature. I started sharing fewer photos online and collecting more in the dust-covered file folder marked "photos". I started relying on feedback for my photos...and if I didn't receive any, it meant the photo must be "bad". I have literally thousands of photos, 90% of which have never been shared, taking up space on my external hard drive.
Because I stopped listening to myself and started listening to others.
As all things do, that has started to change.
Image: Lisa Renee Wilson, taken 7/2012
Perhaps it was the process of Fearless Painting. Perhaps it was the online sharing and encouragement I've received from all of you. Perhaps it was the determination I've discovered through running. Or perhaps it is just wisdom garnered from age.
But I'm beginning to remember something.
Yep, almost everyone has a digital camera.
Yep, a lot of people take their cameras everywhere and click hundreds of thousands of photos.
Yes, I've read countless books but have never taken a photography class. I still struggle with f/stops and which settings on my camera will give me the photo that I want.
No, I don't have much desire to learn any of that. (*gasp*)
NOTE: THERE IS AN EXCELLENT INTERVIEW on exactly this
over at Liberated Life Project.
Yes, my photos may sometimes be trite or overexposed or boring compared to what someone else with a digital camera and a bit more knowledge could have done.
Why should that stop me from taking photos?
It is the same thing in any creative process.
We find the desire deep within and those who are lucky enough to have an avenue start to play and explore. Along the way, we are taught techniques and possibly even earn degrees. All of this can be valuable.
It's those underlying whispers coming from the fear caverns that'll get you every time.
Because as we continue in our creative process, the next natural question is How Do I Share This With Others?
And that sharing comes laden with responsibility. To share, it must be "good enough". To share, we must have the appropriate credentials to share. And heaven forbid we want to CHARGE for our creative expression. Then we must follow all sorts of business guidelines and marketing techniques and have our art pieces be archival and to be able to survive a nuclear world war.
And we listen.
Oh how we listen.
Our photos, our paintings, our written stories get shoved in corners and forgotten.
We associate those creative endeavors with all forms of exploration, and come to believe that exploration simply isn't worth it. There's too much to do, too much to worry about, too many WRONG ways to do it.
I could go on for pages. I've probably gone on longer than most attention spans will hold already. (I know I've checked Facebook at least twice while typing this.) But this is so, so important.
I love my camera and how I feel when I'm exploring the world through its lens. (Check out more on this through the discipline of Contemplative Photography.) I love my wax and how it feels to paint and scrape and smooth. I love my paints, especially when I'm finger painting and smooshing some giant glob of crimson into a white paper.
THAT IS ENOUGH.
It is more than enough. It is more than enough reason to do it, it is more than enough reason to offer it to the world if I choose to do so.
It is a sense of being ALIVE that I discover over and over.
It is a KNOWING that life can be experienced in this way.
It is a MINDFUL ENGAGEMENT with life that I carry far beyond the art studio.
When I'm sharing those things (through photos, writing, art, or in conversation over a chai), what is given is FAR more valuable, FAR more unique, far more needed in this world than any one photo -- no matter how technically perfect it is.
I want nothing more than to experience and radiate this peaceful passion for life.
And if I had to guess, the world wants nothing less in return.
And you? Do you feel anything through reading this? Any excitement in your core? Any itching to get up and do something, even if you don't know what it is?
All I ask is that you pay attention to that. Question what you do next. Feel and explore your way through these next through moments without judgment.
I'm headed out now to do my grocery shopping with the kids.
And yes... my camera is coming with me.