Photography – A Compass Through The Chaos

The three things that seem to cause most stress in my day to day life are mess, noise, and rushing.

So perhaps I’m not ideally predisposed to have three kids, two of them boys under eight.

Anyway, as you know – and like you – photography is a mainstay in my life, and a passion I can’t really imagine being without.

One of the key reasons is it allows me to escape from the triple threat to my state of calm and balance I mentioned above.

Let’s look at how these three manifest in photography, and how I move away from them.

Mess

On the whole I like simple, stark, compositions. Also, I shoot more in b/w than colour, which in itself accentuates elements like light and shadow, texture, and the basic arrangement of the shapes in your composition.

Mess would equate to a busy street scene where I wouldn’t know where to focus, what to leave in the frame and what to exclude, and generally feel torn in a dozen directions.

By focusing on simple, ordered (to me, but not necessarily literally things arranged in a row) compositions, it also feels like I’m escaping the mess of every day life (and by this I simply mean the aftermath of children playing, eating, bathing, rather than anything more dramatic like tattered relationships!)

Noise

Literally, I get away from noise by going on walks in empty woods and ancient rural churches where I rarely see anyone, and the only sounds I hear are entirely of nature’s own making.

More metaphorically, escaping noise in photos is similar to avoiding mess above – looking for simplicity and order.

Although sometimes a scene can be so noisy, it flips beyond the chaos and into a kind of serenity, a tipping point we spoke about a few months back.

So I escape noise – both aurally and visually – with how I choose to explore and engage in photography.

Rushing

Anyone with children will relate that trying to get more than just yourself organised and ready to be somewhere on time is a challenge, the magnitude of which seems to multiply with each additional child.

(Though some say once you get into double figures they start to look after each other and it gets easier.)

To escape this horribly frustrating feeling of constantly rushing to be somewhere that’s not of your own choosing anyway, I only really head out on a photowalk if I know I have at least an hour to myself – and preferably two.

Not for me the snatched shots of a work lunch break or five minute diversion on the way home.

I need the equivalent of a deep hot soak in fragrant bubble bath, rather then splashing a bit of water on my face, a quick spritz of deodorant, and rushing out again.

With these longer photowalks, I can amble and wander at my own pace, photographing as much or as little as I wish. Another way photography helps me escape.

As you can see, photography gives me a fairly reliable route out of feelings of the stress, anxiety and challenges of daily life.

Photography gives me a compass through the chaos, a tried and tested outlet that leads me to a certain state of pleasure and calm, almost every time.

And for that, regardless of the equipment I use, and the final images that result, it is incredibly precious.

How about you? How does photography help you escape and/or deal with some of the challenges of day to day life? How does it give you a compass through the chaos?

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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6 thoughts on “Photography – A Compass Through The Chaos”

  1. Photography is not as central in my life as running. But it’s funny how running plays more or less the same roles than photography for you.
    *Mess*: there is nothing like a good workout where the objectives I had are fulfilled in a satisfying way (whether it was just to do a short recovery run or a difficult workout) to bring a feeling of order that diffuses in other components of my life.
    *noise*: I never run with music, I appreciate to get lost into my thoughts, so deeply that I become insensitive to the surrounding noises. That brings a feeling of peace, equilibrium (interestingly, this is often exacerbated when there is a body of calm water near me (lake for ex.).
    *rushing*: also something I really do not like at all. Running is a time for myself, like your photowalks, which I like to enjoy without constraints. I have the same feeling than you when there is only limited time: I do not enjoy as much the ride, and generally prefer to avoid it or set up on a very short and easy run just to get some fresh air.

    1. Interesting to hear those parallels Joel. I love the idea of running and have dabbled with it in the past, but my knees and ankles just don’t like it. So I revert back to walk, which fortunately I seem to be able to do for hours on end with little physical impact.

  2. It’s a pity, but maybe not lost anyway: often we think that our body is not adapted, but it is in fact a problem of technique not really adapted to running. Strangely enough we still think that running is natural, that there is no need to learn like other sports. But this is probably false, especially for adults. If you have the opportunity try to compare how you run barefoot (which often force you towards better technique) and with running shoes and check differences!

    1. Thanks Joel, I did research running quite a bit a few years back, reading about various endurance runners and tribes that run 100 miles barefoot. I invested in some “barefoot” running shoes but just didn’t persist with them as they were far from comfortable. I think if I lived in more suitable terrain (like near a sandy beach!) I’d certainly explore barefoot running again.

  3. I’m somewhat like you in that photography is part of my escape from certain stressors in my life. I suffer from anxiety which can sometimes lead to intense anger (mess) when there is no release. Walking the woods in my township and nearby townships and counties help reduce that anxiety. It’s a natural therapy. When I don’t get enough of it (like during anxiety-provoking global pandemic), the anxiety worsens, and so does my mental health. That’s the noise.

    Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” When the weather is amenable (it’s been snowing in New Jersey for three days), I practice Shinrin-yoku in the woods for several hours.

    1. We’re on the same page here Khurt, I absolutely love the woods, have done all my life.

      I hadn’t heard that Japanese term before, love it, and I’m certainly an ardent practitioner!

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