As a pre-teen kid I used to enjoy clicking away on an old Kodak instamatic camera. Mum always used to tell me she liked my photos, but I never thought any more about it. Besides, the cost of developing film stretched beyond the limits of my pocket money.
When I left school, my very first earnings went on vinyl, or as we used to call them, records! The only other thing I was intent on buying was a better hi fi to play the records on, however I did decide to splash out on the cheapest SLR camera I could get hold of, just for a bit of fun. I would go off and take photos on the streets of Slough (not a day trip, it was simply where I grew up!) or maybe find something ordinary and shoot it from an unusual angle.
The company I worked for happened to have a photographic competition for employees (one of those bonding things I guess). To my surprise I came second, but despite that success, the hobby never really took off, looking back because hip hop came along and I wanted to spend more money on Grandmaster Flash rather than on pictures!
That was the end of my photographic journey until pocket digital cameras came along and took away that cost of developing film. I had a nice one, although it was still very much point and shoot, but it sowed a seed as it made me want to take better photos than it was capable of. So I took the plunge and bought a basic digital SLR camera.
After much playing around, and convincing my partner that she truly is London’s next top model, the photos improved, the feedback got better, and a passion for photography was suddenly born.
I’ve been around the arts for about five or six years now. I found poetry first (which is another story), but I’ve never been much into performing. I’m not one for being in front of an audience as I’ve never liked public speaking or doing presentations at work. Photography allows me to be creative but remain anonymous. I almost feel on the outside looking in, even if I’m taking pictures at a poetry event, my six foot two frame attempting to be light footed and not obstruct the audience’s view nor the artist’s continuity. I’m still there, right in front of the audience, but I’m part of them, just closer and more intimate with the artist.
The revelation for me has not just been about the pictures. The biggest impact on me personally has been the relaxation I get from taking photos. I chill and forget about my worries when I’m in the zone with the camera. I very much like to compliment my subject, and in a way that means being at one with them, or at least with what they’re
doing, through the lens.
I love how photography has made me look at the world differently, as I see so much more visually as if everything I see could be a picture. It almost takes me out of myself, away from issues and worries and into an observer’s world.
The de-stressing element of photography really caught me by surprise and made me wonder if art or creativity does the same for others. What does it for you? Can art that involves performance for example, relax you in the same way?
I have a teenage daughter who has autism. Naturally she faces a lot of stress in her life. One thing she adores is animals and birds, so I wondered if photographing nature could help her as much as taking photos had helped me deal with life’s pressures. One day I took her out to a zoo with my camera and let her just do her thing. Once she’d got the basics, she too really found the camera an aid to relaxation. It also allowed us to reconnect and share a common bond, not least because it is a totally chilled environment for us to share together. Her empathy for nature also comes out in how she takes pictures. She refuses to disturb animals she photographs and uses stealth and patience to get close to her subject. This is not the same girl who is stressed easily at school or coping with a bombardment of sensory overloads.
Does art help you relax, or do you share an art form, sport or activity with a child that has helped you bond? I’d love to hear from anyone who has come across something, I guess almost by accident, that has added value to their lives in ways they didn’t expect.
Enjoy your weekend