Snapping Away the Soul
[quote]“Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.” -Henry David Thoreau[/quote]
“What kind of camera do you use?”
“What kind of camera do you use to show people what you’ve done?”
“ I don’t,” I replied as I stepped onto the beach, board in hand ready to paddle out.
The woman who stopped me to ask about where my camera was and what kind I used was a bit confused, possibly upset in the end because I don’t have one.
As a kid I watched movies read books about cultures that didn’t want to be photographed for fear it would steal the soul. I wondered , how could a little box that let’s in light steal a soul? Nobody’s stealing souls we just wanted a picture, a memory, something to show others of what we have accomplished, found or learned. Looking through magazines that’s what I saw. Now, I see things a little more like the tribes fearing lost soul.
Whether I am surfing, hiking climbing I see the overuse of documentation. People are “documenting” to the point of scripting and choreographing the shots. Where’s the soul in fabricated perfection? Are we simply snapping away the soul?
I love photography and fils, I pour through magazines even catalogs looking at photos. Some photos I see for what they are some for promotion of product and lifestyle in order to sell. Other are true documentation and an art, an exhibition of amazing talent on both sides of the lens. I feel many people involved the art of being outside are forgetting just to be outside. Take some photos but don’t forget about just having the experience
When I paddle out, gear up for climbing or camping the rest of my life melts away. I go out for myself, for my health and mental well being, no stress. I don’t come back with regrets of missed shots or missed opportunities. My outdoor pursuits are not my job,(although I am a wilderness guide) I leave that behind when I am in the water or the mountains. My mind, my mental lens, is clear and can taken in everything and translate what I see right then, in the moment, into happiness that I carry with me forever.
Yes, it’s true, I have taken pictures to show people after a trip to boast of accomplishments and show the difficulties in my pursuits. In the end I found that the experience never transfers. It’s probably because I am not a great photographer but it also has to do with explaining. If you have never felt the wind under your feet, a few hundred feet up, on a climb, sat in the lightning in the backcountry or wondered if you could hold your breath, upside down underwater, any longer for a wave to pass, over pictures alone won’t get you there.
Just this morning I opened up a magazine to see a picture of someone in the most beautiful almond shaped barrel. The color of the water was sky blue……then my eyes catch something in the picture, something strange almost ridiculous about the face of the surfer, there’s a box in his mouth. It’s like I am looking at an Escher painting, documentation of someone documenting, documenting, documenting! In an instant the photo lost much of its beauty.
Again this is not just happening in surfing, it’s everywhere. Whitewater kayaks now come with camera mounts on them and the logo of camera companies already decaled on the boat. Our tools for trade are turning into billboards, I don’t want logos on my boards, boats or boots unless its a company I truly support their mission or they are supporting me….selfish of me? Maybe?
Let’s return to being wild from time to time. Let’s engage in nature in the most wild ways we can. Let’s have conversations about what we haven’t seen so we can listen to the words from a friend about their experience with their emotions helping us draw the most beautiful images in our mind.
I guess in the end it’s my love of going out, getting lost in experiences, using my mental and emotional memory to document, refresh and renew myself. I have great memories of mistakes that turned trips into adventures. I can’t delete those from my memory or edit them its what keeps me going out for more. I don’t want to drag more gear, plastics and potential trash into the environment. As my friend Mike says, “keep the scene clean”.
Document away; but just don’t forget to lose yourself in the experience, be wild and leave some soul.
Guest Post by Stephen Mullaney