Changing The Way We See Ourselves

May 12, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Pandemic is in the news every day. Everyone is affected by it. Whether you stay home all the time, or just go grocery shopping or out in your front yard, you can't help but notice the masks, the social distancing, the vague look of worry on your neighbors' faces. Everyone is asking the same question: will we ever get back to normal? Of course, there are signs that many things are just as they were. People are still going to work, building houses, raising families. Perhaps, they just do it with a little more caution now, concerned that things may radically change again.

How does all that's going on affect how we, as photographers, as recorders of the lives around us, do our jobs? There have been thousands, if not millions, of words written by and for photographers about  this subject in the last couple of months. What I'm about to say probably won't change anything, but I've been thinking about it for a while now, and I'd like to start a discussion. 

I've said before that creative people have been given a gift wrapped in a pandemic. Jobs have been put on hold and lives have been changed drastically, but we've seen some pretty remarkable things. People are using their time at home to create. Just today, someone posted online that he would build furniture to order. He said he'd always built furniture, but had never thought of it as a source of income until his job was furloughed. And he makes beautiful, solid pieces. It seems to me more and more people are turning to just plain hard work. One of the "new normals" seems to be people are purchasing produce and meat directly from farmers, since many of the commercial processing plants for big chain stores are on hold. I was in a big box store today buying supplies to replace a door (it's amazing how many little jobs can get done when you're home most of the time), and there was a line at the appliance counter of people ordering freezers. They weren't panicked. They weren't planning on buying every piece of meat in the store and hoarding it. They were acting out of common sense. If you have food stocked at home, you don't have to go out to the store every other day.

So, what does all that have to do with how we see ourselves as photographers? I believe this mindset is flooding through not just to us, but to everyone. PPA and other organizations are offering classes for NeverdieNeverdie is a weed that comes back from the tiniest part of the root left in the ground. I usually don't give these weeds a second look, but the light was right, and it was right there in my backyard.
free to help people grow in their skills. Photographers are coming up with lists of projects to do at home, and I've seen some of the most beautiful flowers and food photography. People are turning their cameras inward on their own worlds, instead of out on the world at–large. I've always believed photographing in my own backyard is one of the most interesting things to do, and this year already I've planted dozens of varieties of flowers and plan on planting more to attract a larger variety of life than ever. I have friends who are "big picture" people, photographing landscapes and African cats, who now are photographing the tiniest details found in their own homes. 

Do I think this is a good thing? No. I think this is a great thing, a better thing. When we aren't running around trying to fill our lives up with all the things we see in the outside world, we are emptying the vessel to fill it up with things we see every day, and those things matter more than we ever thought possible. There's a favorite movie quote of mine, from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window.

Jimmy Stewart plays L.B. Jeffries, a magazine photographer who thinks he's witnessed a murder while he recovers from a broken leg and stares out his window. His nurse, Stella, has one of the best lines in the entire movie: "We've become a race of peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir." 

Here's to looking into our own houses.


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