Stopping to Smell the Carnations
Whenever I fall off the wagon with my work, I try and think about why I lost enthusiasm in the first place. Usually I find that the reason is pretty much the same. I lose steam because I become tired of humdrum everydays. The best pictures on Instagram or Flickr showcase the most interesting and captivating people, locations and experiences. To see these photographs is to think with envy on how unfair it is to be stuck in less than stellar circumstances. How fabulous my photographs could be if I was surrounded by dynamic friends who were always dressed perfectly, loved to have their photos taken, and were always up for an adventure. How amazing would it be if I could travel more often! Travel inspires the best work from me. The thrill of the unfamiliar sparks my creativity. Reality is much different however, and my days are filled with ordinary to-dos: work, school, lots of running around, and a perpetual state of mommy/wife mode.
I wonder, what do these people do? Does anyone work, go to school, have responsibilities from Monday to Friday? My best photography happens on the weekends. There just isn’t time for it during the weekday grind. So is it a lifestyle issue? Or a conformity issue? Am I being resistant to find beauty and interest in the normal everyday things I do, because I think photography should look a certain way? I know this isn’t true of course. So why am I not photographing the life I live?
When I first began taking photos, the people and things that surrounded me were my constant subjects. I was a documentarian of my own life and I enjoyed sharing it with others. The work spoke to me, and the pride and love for the subjects was palpable. The enthusiasm wore off and somewhere along the line I stopped making photographs of my life. The yearly calendar I make for my parents with pictures of the boys became a challenge, due to the lack of quality photographs taken of them throughout the year.
I’ve looked around and wondered why I’m not photographing the people and moments that make me most happy. Not just my own family of four, but my parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, our get-togethers, our milestones. These images would be the legacy of our family. A visual testament of our time together. I have often lamented that the newest generation in our family will never really know the way it was. A large pot of immigrant families, who got together almost every weekend to drink, eat and be merry. The language, the jokes, the music, will all fade away. Our children are American versions of us. I need more photographs of the aunts playing bingo, and the uncles and cousins sitting around in a circle; a drink that never seems to end, always in hand.
My life is less exotic roses and more ordinary carnations. I’m afraid my photographs will lack the jaw-drop effect others do, but if I stop documenting my ordinary life, nothing changes anyway. I still have to go to work at an office and go to class and do laundry; only I had less fun, because photography is fun. It used to be and it can be again. There is a bigger challenge artistically speaking, if one can make a meaningful, powerful photograph out of nothing, than a stunning portrayal of an already stunning scene.
If you find yourself in a similar place as me, I challenge you to join me in an exercise of appreciation. Whether you’re a photographer or not. Look around, take it in, gather your boring carnations and smile, offer thanks, and live the life you were given.
You can see more of my work here. Thanks for looking.