Intentional Creation, Intentional Consumption

We spoke recently about creation, curation and consumption, and how much we do of each. Since then I’ve been thinking more around not only how much of each I engage in, but the quality or type.

And with each there is a common thread of intention.

When I was a young child, we only had three channels on TV. If you wanted to watch children’s programmes, you had to have the TV on between 330-600pm, when they were broadcast.

This was a few years before VCRs became affordable too. So you couldn’t choose what you wanted to watch, and when. You could only choose whether you had the TV on or not, and if you did, which channel. Out of the three options.

So naturally most of the time, people just watched what happened to be provided at that time by the broadcaster.

Back then it was all we knew, TV-wise, but I knew from having a Walkman and a small collection of cassettes (and taping music from the radio, usually the Top 40 on a Sunday afternoon) that I could exert far more control in what I listened to, and when.

When VCRs came along this started to happen with TV too. You could record shows without watching them at the time of broadcast, then replay at your own convenience.

You weren’t just watching whatever happened to be on the TV at the time you sat down in front of it, your selection was intentional.

I think this is the first time I started to enjoy the idea of TV – and films specifically – as a kind of event.

TV wasn’t just something to have on in the background like visual and aural wallpaper.

You decided when you wanted to watch a movie, and made an effort to make it an immersive and enjoyable experience.

To this day I really dislike not watching a film in one sitting. As I see it, films were made to get lost in, in one go, not to be broken up and snacked on, like a bar of chocolate.

I did have to make an exception recently for the four hour Zack Snyder version of Justice League, watching it in two blocks of two hours. I don’t like sitting in one place for four hours for anything.

Streaming TV is the natural evolution of VCRs and DVDs, and again we choose what we want to watch, where, when and how.

The ability to play music and video on multiple devices like TVs, tablets and phones has given us more options.

Even a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have considered watching TV on anything but the main big TV in the front room. But most of my more recent intentional TV consumption has been on my iPad.

I thought the screen would be too tiny, the sound too puny. But an iPad 30cm from your face is about the same surface area to your field of vision as a big TV three or four metres away.

Plus using decent headphones makes the experience more immersive, intimate and multi-dimensional than speakers across a room too.

In some ways this iPad and headphones set up is more engaging an experience than the big Sony in the living room.

The point is we can now be very intentional with our consumption of both TV and music.

We don’t have to be passive, mindless consumers, ingesting whatever’s put in front of us.

I think it’s no coincidence that I have a similar desire for this level of deliberate choice in how I photograph.

With TV and music, I don’t just stick the TV or radio on and watch and listen to whatever’s on. I specifically make an occasion to watch and listen, choose what I want to consume, then try to immerse myself in the experience as fully as possible.

With photography, I don’t wander around snapping blindly, or spraying my cameras on multishot modes.

I specifically choose a time and place to go on a photowalk, a camera to accompany me, and then again, try to immerse myself in this experience as fully as possible, making pictures only of scenes I’m really drawn to.

I think that being intentional is so vital to our experience of life, and how deeply and fully we allow ourselves to enjoy things.

I guess another way of describing this is being mindful. Mindful consumption and mindful creation.

How about you? How intentional and mindful is your consumption, and creation – with photography, film, music and more?

As always, 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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8 thoughts on “Intentional Creation, Intentional Consumption”

  1. There is a downside to “broadcast freedom”: in those old days life was planned around the favourite weekly or nightly show; now that the choice is ours we sometimes can not make up our minds what to watch. The other flaw in the 500+ channel universe is that the need to fill all that broadcast time results in a lessening of quality in order to generate enough content: cheap, mass-produced ‘dollar store’ programs as opposed to crafted shows. Having grown up in the time of expensive film I’d say I’m conditioned to where I still try to make every shot count. Unfortunately I must report dwindling success at that as my vision interferes with my vision.

    1. Yes I hear what you’re saying Marc. There are times I sit down with Netflix, go to my watch list and realise I’ve saved 25 different series of interest, none of which I’ve yet watched an episode of. Then I wonder what to watch.

      This is why with many aspects of life, I function better when I make a choice or commitment ahead of time then just run with it. For example my One Month One Camera project I started a few years ago to combat the overwhelming choice of cameras I faced every time I wanted to head out and make some photographs.

      Largely with TV I try to stick with one series at a time. It was Lost In Space for a few months, now it’s Stranger Things. The thinking then becomes “when shall I watch the next episode of Stranger Things?” rather than “what on earth am I going to watch the next time I have a free hour or so??”

      I agree about the quality, that is certainly true of the main free channels over here. There are something like 100, and maybe only six of them are consistently good. Most I never touch as they’re just trash. But even then with great variation of topic, you couldn’t just watch everything on one (good) channel and it all be of interest.

      We subscribe to Disney+ and Netflix, and between those two and a couple of the free channels (via their streaming apps) there’s never a shortage of something decent to watch. I read a useful piece of advice the other day along the lines of accept that 90% of everything (art-wise) is crap, so try to seek out the best 10% before you dismiss the whole genre, whether it’s country music or abstract painting or landscape photography or whatever.

      Neat line about vision and vision. Where are you with that currently, do you rely on autofocus?

      1. Yes, Dan; it’s autofocus or out-of-focus for me now. Sometimes both, as the ol’ Nikon often fails to lock on properly. Even framing with the EVF cameras has become difficult as I just don’t see the image in the finder well.

      2. I haven’t used a DSLR since perhaps last summer, and then it was a struggle for my eyes. Just gives me a headache and makes my eyes tired and blurry very quickly.

        I think most of my future photography will be with a digital camera with a decent screen, using AF, but where I can see what it’s locked on to also.

      3. I have trouble with EVF so it looks like I must use the DSLR more, which means expensive lenses for the kind of shooting I do. I really need autofocus too – but I need it to work. The Nikon keeps ‘missing’ these days.

      4. Marc, I’ve used a couple of my DSLRs with manual lenses but kept the AF indicator on. So although the lens doesn’t focus automatically, as you manually focus, you get the green square pop up in the VF to show when it’s in focus. Not 100% accurate but works more often than not, and doesn’t limit you to dedicated AF lenses.

  2. When I am going into long bus trips in routes I already know I read in my kindle e-reader, but last time, taking advantage of wireless buds with ambient noise cancelling, I decided to watch a fun movie. I chose Collateral with Tom Cruise. I was so wrong, it was quite a beautiful movie, and the noise cancelling function helped me to be immerse as the movie has silence. I’d wish to have seen it in a lonely cinema, I mean lonely because sadly where I am many moviegoers go more to talk and publish selfies about going to the cinema instead of watching the movie (I am already hearing them calling me “old timer” xD) When photographing I am more like instinct driven, the reason is that I don’t have many chances to purposely go to photograph, so I take advantage of how the world seems to order itself into a frame.

    1. I rarely went to the cinema even pre-COVID, mostly because of the major downside of the activity – there are other people there. Noisy, inconsiderate, popcorn scoffing other people! Why sit in that environment when you can watch a movie in the comfort of your own home or car, with people you choose to be with – or none at all!

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