These are my photographs from a belated week 2 of the “Shine” online photography-based course by Henry Lohmeyer.
Day 6: Matter
It shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks of us and what we do – but of course it does. Having said that, I find it difficult to accept compliments for my art or my photography, unless I feel at peace with what I’ve done. I’m my biggest critic – I imagine we all are.
What matters to me is that I’m doing something I enjoy, which ideally produces a pleasing result – although I can’t always guarantee the result. So what matters most is doing the thing, rather than the end result. It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part – even though it can feel disappointing at times not to win.
Day 7: Accept
When I was a teenager, I used to rail against things that happened in my life that I couldn’t control. I felt unable to accept What Is. By the time I was eighteen, I had learned more easily to accept What Is – and now I consider myself to be a pro.
Taking Life As It Comes, or Accepting What Is – either in Life or in my work as a photographer, film maker, writer, artist – is not about giving up hope. It’s not about feeling nothing when things go wrong. It’s simply about being unattached to any expectations that things will happen in a particular way.
I see my life and work as an endlessly unfolding gift with multiple layers. I have no idea what’s inside each layer, and it doesn’t matter. What’s important is being curious to discover what each layer contains, to learn from the experience, and to move on to the next layer without judging the experience as either good or bad.
It simply is what it is.
And by accepting that, I am able to accept that any pain, or challenges, or feelings of inadequacy that I might have in the present moment won’t last.
Day 8: Trust
When I first became self-employed, just over ten years ago (after twenty years as an employee) I trusted that things would work out, because they always had done before. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my business capsized, and I got into debt because I wasn’t working.
When I eventually got out of debt, I again trusted that things would work out. But then the cancer spread to my spine – and more recently to my brain.
You could say that’s bad luck – or you could say it’s because I need to change my diet or get more exercise. But I believe it’s my body’s way of telling me that I’ve wandered off the path that would lead to the greatest happiness and fulfilment.
So now I’m doing my best to focus on a more creative life and making a bigger difference in the world. I have no idea, as yet, whether this is the right path. But I trust that it is, and that everything will work out.
Day 9: Love
I posted a version of this photograph on Instagram and Facebook in June 2016, to let my friends and followers know that I wouldn’t be posting anything for a while, because I had been diagnosed with breast cancer metastases in the brain.
I was overwhelmed by the love, support and well wishes sent to me from all corners of the globe, following that post – sometimes from people I didn’t know very well. It made me feel deeply loved.
What I love about my photography can be seen in my face in this photograph (which, of course, isn’t one of mine). I’m so engrossed in what I’m doing, that I’m totally oblivious to my friend taking my photograph – which is why I’m not smiling.
For me, photography is an exercise in mindfulness. I’m totally focused on one thing: the subject of the photograph or film. Time stands still, and for a few, brief moments the busyness of the world around me ceases to exist.
Day 10: Grow
Growing is the hardest part of Life! Some people think that we grow most during times of crisis – but I disagree. I believe we grow most when we challenge ourselves creatively, forcing us to face our inner demons.
I further believe that, if we continually challenged ourselves creatively, then Life wouldn’t feel the need to throw a spanner into the works every now and then to keep us busy. Or, if it did, we would be better equipped to cope with the challenge.
Taking photographs, painting and writing are ways in which I creatively challenge myself. Sometimes I run away from the challenge, but eventually I accept the opportunity to express myself – regardless of whether the end result appeals to anyone (including myself).
It’s the act of being creative that is important for growth. Not the end result.