The nice thing about photography is that it gets you out in the world. I mean, you see things from every angle, literally, and it opens things up in a different sort of way. I have to admit that after a really crappy year (Yes, I've concluded that it's been a pretty crappy year in a lot of ways. I'm not downing everything about it, but let's just say that things have not FLOWED. It has been relatively CHALLENGING.) it is nice to immerse myself in an activity that really takes me outside of all the thoughts that I think in my head, every day. SO many thoughts, really. SO many, they drown me and confuse me and kick me in the ass, individually and collectively. I don't begrudge myself the ability to think, because it is an interesting gift, and a privilege, and a blessing, certainly. But I guess I'd like things to be easier for a while, or at least less aggravating.
Anyway, getting involved in a creative activity that isn't writing for a change really helps. It really switches something on in my brain that isn't always active without assistance. It forces me to pay attention. It has blessed me with a fall wherein every morning when I'm driving to work, I'm really digging the way the light falls on and between the trees. I'm familiar with the way the leaves have turned, on a daily basis, on my normal routes to work. It's gotten me out of bed and on a hike in the mountains, early in the morning, where I've seen a piece of the Appalachian Trail and realized that the parts of our lives when our feet really touch the Earth are too few and far between. It's given me different views of Las Vegas, Arizona, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., southern Virginia, and my own teeny front yard. It's gotten me together with an old friend for a kickass portrait session. It's gotten me to go to the Mall (the DC one, not the shopping one) with a group of total strangers, lying on the ground to photograph monuments with a fresh eye.
I can't tell you what a nice change this is. I can't tell you how much I need it. And when my mom calls when I'm in Baltimore, and I tell her I'm taking pictures, and she says "I wish there was someone there with you," I can mean it when I say, "I don't". Because I think it's okay to be alone right now. As not-okay as it feels some days, I think it's part of the task for now. And when you're taking pictures, you're not (as uber-corny as this sounds) really alone. You're necessarily engaged with the world around you, whether it's people or the landscape or an idea. And as I was mentioning to my friend who is a photographer today, people really notice you when you're obviously on a mission to photograph stuff beyond the "point and shoot let's document this trip" vibe. People tend to get out of your way. Sometimes they're a little suspicious. Sometimes they stare. I was patiently waiting yesterday for these parents to take their son's photo with this crab statue that's popped up on the street in Baltimore. I honestly was waiting patiently. And they were looking at me like they were hurrying, like I had somewhere to be...It's just an interesting experience. It's possible to blend in when you want, with all the other touristy types, or you can stand out. It really depends.
I was taking photos inside at an event for work, and this sort of sketchy woman, who always has a snide remark for everything, came up and said, "What are YOU doing?" And I said, "Taking pictures." And she said, "I can see THAT. But WHY?" And I said, "Just because I want to." And that didn't satisfy her at all, but it worked for me.