The Tao Of The Injured Photographer
The Tao Of The Injured Photographer
Have you ever found yourself choking the dust back; twisted and bruised, wishing you could relive the past 4 seconds (or less)? Was that just my worst nightmare, you whimper to yourself just before, or after, a stream of unrepeatables flow between your lips? And the first steps tell you things may not be like they were for a long time. Cambodia landscape from a ground zero perspective.
Fast-forward two months and there I was staring at a familiar photography tool, a film negative. Although not my own, in one way, it very much was in another. It was more than my creative self, it was myself … my monochromatic inner workings projected back memories of biting the Cambodian dust. Still perfect on one side but the mirror image has a flaw with its repair rippling across the calcified landscape. You know the saying “the hip bone is connected…to the…leg bone” and so on. Well, when they become fractured and disconnected things turn chaotic and what was everyday and taken for granted is the new standard to achieve. Stairs cause teeth to grit and uneven landscapes (any sidewalk or footpath in Asia) are tumultuous achievements. Goals are no longer measured in kilometres but steps. Fear of falling overrides mobility. Heating pads and cold wraps become new bed partners, electrodes pulse and stimulate, soft tissue flexibility test and challenge, handrails and anti-inflammatories become new best friends.
Lying in prone position stretching the hip infrastructure back to health with physio exercises and acupuncture jabs, there has been ample time to ponder how recovery from an injury that affects everyday, the Tao of an injured self, applies to photography, and how to improve photography by following Tao principles. Taoism philosophy advocates staying calm and happy in all circumstances, no matter how arduous life becomes. Life is not full of traps but valuable lessons. Here are some applications to photography:
Be Patient and Grateful – In a country where only time can heal the atrocities of the Pol Pot Cambodian experiment and, even today, survivors of that regime deal with UXO maiming abilities, I nursed wounds that will heal in far less time. Be thankful and optimistic.
Refocus and Practise – Walk forward (ever so carefully) with lessons taken from the rear view mirror. And the side mirrors. Photography has been around for over 160 years. Many things have been tried. Keep your eye on the masters and contemporaries and make your own statement.
Perspective – When your benders will not bend in the usual mode, adapt. With physical limitations adapt perspective. Visual perspective welcomes a new physical perspective. Take less photos and watch for new perspectives.
Body Awareness – With every step a reaction? Have you ever held a static position behind a macro lens, sitting at the computer editing that fab image, so absorbed you lost track of the time passing by and when you came out of the trance your body told you so. Stay absorbed by your passion, mindful of physical messages.
Slow The Pace – Nothing will fine tune a practise of mindful shooting like lack of mobility. Slowing the trigger finger pace, except when being followed by a potential menace. Practise mindful shooting.
Simplify – Walking is a miracle when you examine it closely and walking stairs is even more miraculous. Simplicity surrounded by complexity. Lighten the burden. Take less images, more quality. Same location, vary viewpoint; only one viewpoint, vary lenses; only one lens, vary focal length, only one focal point, vary time or aperture. Come back and perfect. Search for the miracles and give mediocrity a miss.
Envy and Negative Self Talk – Manically destructive. Just as resentful feelings of people who can walk gimp and limp less, so gear and artistic ability envies and all of those other photographic diseases cloud your abilities. Work out the leg stretch exercises and avoid recreating the past, missed shots, if only’s. Accept the present. Stay the course. Learn the gear. Practise and practise.
Be Prepared – A smaller, lighter backup camera saved the day and often meant getting closer and, not surprisingly, more communicative with subjects. Hard drives fail, cameras run ERR messages, battery juice depletes. Create options. Photography is not a chore, if a shot is missed prepare the next time and live without regrets.
Change Your Routine – Selecting a new path enlightens, even if it is not by choice. Handicap facilities, wheelchairs, crutches, canes became routine, and legitimate, for the first time ever. Change can be humbling. Stale routines breed mediocrity. Same old scenes that won favour before, mindless shooting. Less copying, more mindful composing.
For other posts taken while practising Tao through an injury, see also: