The older I’ve become, the more I’ve tried to simplify my life.
I can’t handle (or don’t want to contemplate) making a choice from 10 cameras, let alone the 47 toothpastes on the average supermarket shelf, or the 4700 pairs of headphones available on Amazon.
Hence my experiments this year with one month, one camera.
This is partly a reaction to the speed and complexity of the world we live in today – and the utterly overwhelming choices we have in all aspects.
Some would claim this is the ungrateful mumblings of a spoilt first world citizen, and that choice is a privilege that vast swathes of the world’s population have never known.
But it gives us our own kind of afflictions and anxieties, often rendering us confused and directionless.
This range of choices, combined with our ever hyper-connected online world, where any of us can publish our thoughts, images, art and videos in seconds, results in us simultaneously feeling we can do anything, but are overwhelmed by the complexity of choosing just one thing.
Anything is possible. But nothing gets done.
A photographer 50 years ago, looking for inspiration and guidance as to what a stunning photograph looks like, had straightforward paths to take.
They could seek out either a published and critiqued book of photographs, or visit an exhibition.
There were gatekeepers – the critics, publishers, gallery curators – who made decisions for the rest of us about what was worth public display and consumption.
Today we have billions of images at our fingertips online, and it’s almost entirely down to us to decide which of those images are worth our attention and study.
When the vast majority of them aren’t.
So we jadedly roam these endless beaches searching for that rare photographic gem amongst a billion ordinary grains of sand.
The so called heroes of today seem to be those who have the most exposure on TV, and those who have the most followers and “likes” on social media.
Which gives a skewed reality to the rest of us on what a worthwhile role model looks like.
It’s suggesting to us that to be someone we too must follow this route and acquire the fake tan, hair, nails, tattoos, a dog that looks like a rat, carried in a handbag that cost more than a car, and/or the notoriety from getting drunk, fighting, sleeping around, and publish it to the world in frantic fits of selfies.
Worse still, whilst we’re all human, and therefore imperfect, something to embrace and celebrate, a constant exposure to mediocrity at best – and just distasteful, unbecoming behaviour at worst – surely dumbs down everyone’s expectations and passions.
So where do we find our heroes today, the role models to light the way not only for our photography, but in life in general?
Personally, there are very few contemporary photographers I follow. In the last few years I’ve delved more into the past, investing in books before gear, something I could still do far more of.
In wider life, I’m really not sure I could hold up anyone “famous” as a role model.
More likely I would tell you my heroes are the likes of the teachers, doctors, nurses, research scientists and charity volunteers, the people who diligently go about their important work day to day with a quiet dignity, remaining anonymous to most, but life changing to those they direct come into contact with.
How about you? Who are you heroes today – in photography, and in the wider walks of life? And how do you find them?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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