How Photography Saved My Life
My G+ profile description reads: Writer. Photography saved my life. The photography statement sounds rather dramatic doesn’t it? Despite the supposed histrionics, I believe the statement to be quite true and when photographer Helen Sotiriadis suggested I write a post about it, how could I say no?
As is usually the case with big profound statements such as this, it’s hard to put into words exactly how the story and emotions support the premise. But as a word weaver sewing the fabric of tales or a surgeon wielding his blade, I will attempt to share with you how it came to be that the magic of a lens gave me the ability to discover a new life and breathe deeply for the first time in years.
I think it was some war correspondent or photojournalist who said that when he was behind the camera documenting the war, he felt as if nothing could touch him. No bomb could threaten him, no bullet could pierce the shield of the camera. I can understand that. January of 2011 saw the northeastern coast of the US blitzed by three major blizzards. With snow up to our hips, people were house-bound and cranky. For me, it wasn’t simply a matter of cabin fever. Along with the snow, 2011 was bringing with it a host of personal trials just for me. Some were exciting and adventurous…like preparing for a move to Sweden. Some were simply gut wrenching and complicated… like selling my house and belongings, and dealing with the climax of some ongoing legal matters.
One day I made an announcement on Facebook that I’d like to “try photography”. My editor at Artscope Magazine thought it was a great idea. The love of my life had been encouraging me to “get a hobby already”. It seemed to me that I could sit on the couch and ruminate every day or I could do something productive. So with each new snowfall, while some people were complaining, I was busy photographing that amazing frost on my bedroom window, the angel I found in the icicles which hung from my roof, the tracks of animals in the the white snow… which really wasn’t white at all.
Through the lens, I could momentarily escape blizzards, cleaning out my house, law courts, real estate agents, and what I am sure, was an impending nervous breakdown. As I focused my camera on a subject, the only thing I saw was beauty. In post production, the only thing I focused on was the photo.
The really amazing part about this was when I decided to share my images with others. You see, I was the gal who often cut the heads off my subjects while photographing on family vacations. But somehow now composition was on my side. Lighting was my friend. And when I shared these images people responded in the most wonderful ways. Yes, I could have kept the photos secret, but I’m a communicator and I’m compelled to share. It was very exciting. I went out and bought a new Canon camera and a big honking memory card. I took my camera everywhere and took photos of everything. I saw things that I had never really looked at before. I am sure that photography helped me narrow my focus and concentrate on finer things. Stress disappeared.
For over ten years, I supported artists, photographers, sculptors, galleries and non profit organizations. I helped them write artist statements, managed their shows, inventoried their work and created their marketing materials and websites. While I certainly believe that design can be artful and that writing is a creative expression, to be referred to as an artist is a whole ‘other’ experience for me. It makes me undeniably happy and, happiness and humor is the shock absorber of life.
Working on photo essays also appeals to me and I’ve experimented with two essays so far. The story telling aspect is something I very much like. I also found that I was able to express certain personal feelings through photography … these emotions could be very abstract and personal or right out in your face. It was a wonderful relief to find that expression. However, having said that, I’ve also recently spent many hours looking at the work of some very fine professional photographers. These guys and gals have shown me that not only can one image be interesting, but it can also tell an entire story.
There is much I need to learn but I’m not getting consumed with that now. I believe to be a true artist one needs to have a command of craft and that will come to me in time. For now, I’m just going to love it and continue to find beauty… and maybe even sometimes truth.