Miscellanea is prose on earnest living from the porch of a photographer in New Orleans — a home for questions, critique, and curiosities. Let’s grow together.
"The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable."
I’ve been angry — not broodingly so, but periodically and momentarily disoriented by anger. So I’ve been thinking about what it means to sit with myself and my anger; to refrain from judging or reacting to it.
I’d like to believe that if we can refrain from judging ourselves, we can refrain from judging others too — and that for a judgement-free moment or two, we can rest. We can sit with what’s real. We can be where we are.
Our reality is that we are fearful and wanting. Fearful of what we might find in ourselves and wanting for something better. So we escape and we search and we find a distraction.
My default escapism is nostalgia — and so distracting myself, I begin to sift through my vacation pictures. Miami, Hudson, Paris. These pictures make me happy and forgetful of the anger in my chest.
As I weave my way through jpeg treasure troves, I notice a theme in the Paris black-and-whites. Picture-perusing surfaces patterns and they are typically not inconsequential, because Subconscious is the operating deity of image-making.
What I began to notice is a lovingly meager collection of ‘sitting’ photos. People sitting — with friends, with phones, with sun. Invisible to us, however, is what each of them is actually sitting with. What are they present to? What are they running from? And what are they running towards?
Connecting the dots and returning to my own notion of ‘being here now’, it seems as revealed to me in this process, that writing is perhaps a most accessible form of presence. The natural and stuttering pace of writing is as tuned into the present as I’ll ever be, not at all dissimilar from the walk-look-and-click tempo of photo-walking.
It strikes me that presence feels so accessible in these states of creativity, and makes it clear that when I am not creatively fulfilled, it’s not because I haven’t made anything, but more because I have struggled to find presence — that state of mind which at once wholly accepts our fear and wanting while connecting us to a quiet peace and confidence.
It’s important to note that my anger, or whatever emotional energy I’m carrying, does not just dissipate in this creative state of presence. Rather, by acceptance, my emotions are – for the time-being – transmuted and impressed upon the object of my making.
The challenge becomes to stay present to your making, to keep on the path, and to not abuse creativity as a means of escape. Pure escapism, and the temporary relief that accompanies it, are as void and vapid as anything. It is difficult to stay the path, but there is no reward for veering off of it.
Finagling myself into a present and creative mindset is the best way I know how to refrain — to not judge, to rest, and to be where I am. But for me, writing and photography can be intensive and heady practices that often require heavy emotional lifting. So are there other ways to access that mindset?
Reduced to its most practical form, art is what we make. When we walk, we make a path. When we talk, we make a conversation. When we cook, we make a dish. We are constantly making new things and making things new.
Perhaps always, we have the opportunity to enter into presence and refrain — and instead of judging our attitudes or sulking in our moods, we can accept them and move through them with a quiet peace and confidence that only we can achieve for ourselves. We can take the next step, we can make the next thing, we can be present.
Lovely shots. I'm going next week!