For the past few months I’ve been trying to navigate a particular creative struggle. I can’t point to exactly when it became a thing, but I’ve come to realize that I have three primary ways that I interact with nature via photography: literally, experimentally, and casually. Oftentimes they are at odds with each other, or so I interpret them to be, and I’ve been spending a lot of thinking time wondering what it all means and how I should or shouldn’t let one affect the other.
I’m writing this all out to make these thoughts and feelings a little more concrete.
My primary way of interacting with nature is in a literal way. This interaction gives me what I need most out of my trips to nature: clarity, solace, mindfulness, distillation and more. They’re the moments where I am absolutely lost in my viewfinder and focused solely on the subject, moment in time, or interaction that I am photographing. I get into my flow state and I study the things I am photographing very deeply and literally. Meaning, I am photographing “a rock”, “a tree”, or “a glint of light” and my attention is completely invested in that process. Even most of my abstract images are born of literal interactions.
The vast majority of my current portfolio was created in this way and the whole entire workflow of the image from beginning to end can be described in one word as “serious”. And before I type the next part I want to make it clear that I need this type of interaction. It’s a very important part of my relationship with nature and it’s what has made me the person I am today. Yet sometimes the seriousness can be draining, overwhelming, and even unwanted. That feeling stems from the level of importance that I give this kind of interaction. I think I have trained myself into believing that I ALWAYS have to interact with nature in this way. And the process doesn’t stop in the field: when I get home I am going through the whole task of uploading the images to my computer, culling them, categorizing them, and reviewing the images for potential portfolio candidates. Then the whole emotional and mental side of processing the image starts. The way I process these images is also very serious. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I put a high level of attention and care into the processing of my images. I’m not saying that every decision that I make is the “right” one, but more that it’s the one that I want to make and there’s nothing about that creative decision that bothers me. I want the images in my portfolio to be a visual representation of that experience and if there is something in the image that bothers me then it takes away from that.
After the image hits my portfolio, that’s when I start to think about business and there’s a whole serious side to that. Keywording, resizing and saving five different versions of the file, saving the image descriptions and keywords in a separate document, adding it to my website and setting up the products, adding it to my checklist so that I know where I’ve already shared the image, sharing the image across multiple platforms, following up on comments (which I need to get better at), sending out two different newsletters, and then starting the whole entire process over again for the next image.
Again, I need this part of photography and it doesn’t necessarily feel like “work”, it’s just that I sometimes don’t possess the desire or energy required to interact in this way, where everything is deep and serious.