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For attention's sake
#102: How we regain our memories and spark our imaginations, ft. three photos of a cross
While making more time to write and photograph, I’ve been thinking more about the path of an artist and my own sense of purpose.
Almost as important as the making itself is the saving and setting things aside and taking notes. In my own collection of saved things is a screenshot of a caption I wrote last December:
Photography, when undertaken in a more intentional and sober manner, is teaching yourself to see, over and over again. There is no better practice in noticing. Proliferation of the medium made my approach more casual for some time; when everyone is everywhere taking photos of everything, moments can lose their preciousness. But it's up to the artists to replace what's lost in the shuffle: attention.
In the weeks following I’d come to learn that my professional life was changing irreversibly — in a way that would ultimately force me to become more intentional with my lens and more precious with my moments.
And so after some months spent scrambling to get things in order, I re-committed to the project of Miscellanea. Here, it has always been about growing, learning, and questioning. My hope has always been that I can capture some of your time and squeeze some focus, attention, and contemplation into one of your days.
But the real and irresistible nature of our modern lives is addiction and fragmentation and chaos. To be completely present with anything for any good amount of time feels like a revelation.
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I am curious how we can return to a sense of wonder. In a world built to fill up time to the brim, I almost forget what boredom feels like.
When I was a kid I’d walk in the woods to fill my mind — now I walk to clear it.
This is what I was getting at when I wrote about replacing what’s been ‘lost in the shuffle’.
Giving everyone a camera on their phone, and then unlimited storage for these digital images, was always a going to become a dangerous game.
Photos, once miraculous tools to discover ourselves, have since lost much meaning. Most of us no longer take photos with curious minds or any sense of creativity at all. Our camera-phones have become memory devices, and so we have less of an incentive to ever be present — further fragmenting of our minds and limited attention.
As best I can tell from where I’m sitting, at least one surefire way to be more present and to really see: Buy a camera and print your photos. Better yet, go somewhere without a camera, without a phone.
One thing that’s become crystal clear through a decade of making photos is that there are express moments that needn’t be captured, and are quite possibly served better by the elasticity of our own memories and imaginations.
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A great, short read about the insularity of photo communities and the need to make the art more accessible in the ways that we make and share our work.
”Art and creativity do not have to be momentous acts. Our ideas and our creations do not have to be shocking or awe-inspiring. They can be small, they can be slow, they can be gentle, they can be mundane, they can be intimate.”
“Creative expression is our birthright — a surefire way to maintain sanity amidst insane time. When your attention is invested in what you contribute to life rather than what you’re anxious about or deprived of, you take your seat in the natural order of things.”