Fishing upstream from the internal sensor

“My boyfriend…he goes in this trance when he starts to photograph some things.

 What do you mean?

 Well, once we were in New Delhi and we pass a bum, that was lying down the sidewalk…Anyway, like, he looked like he needed help, but his first reaction was to photograph him!  He went, like, really close to his face, fixing his collar, to make it look better. He was like totally detached from the person.

 Yeah, but you have to be like that… to be good at that job.

 Yeah, I mean, I’m not…you know, I’m not…I’m not judging him for it, you know, what he does is essential and incredible. All I’m saying is that I could never do it.”

I did it.  I bought a digital SLR camera today.  I spent over $800 on something I may or may not use (not unlike my laptop, bought six months ago, used exactly twice). I bought the camera on a whim…..well, a whim that’s been in the back of my head for years.  Today, I acted on it.

When I was 18, I loved playing with photography.  I would get lost in the hours I spent in the dark room, nurturing my images, but that passion died somewhere along the way.  I could never find the time to take photos.  I hated lugging my heavy camera bag with me everywhere.  I felt disassociated from the events taking place on the other side of the lens.  I didn’t want to continue being an observer, but a participant.    As the years slipped by, my camera traveled out with me less and less.

These are just excuses.  I stopped taking photos because I didn’t feel I was good enough.  I wasn’t good enough to warrant lugging a huge camera case around.  I wasn’t good enough to feel confident pulling my camera out on a busy urban street to take a photo.  I wasn’t good enough to call myself a photographer. So, I put my camera away and thought to myself, “silly me that I thought I could do this well”.

My boyfriend taught me how to fly fish this weekend.  He took me to a little stream stocked full with blue gill, taught me how to cast, then showed me how to watch and feel for a nibble, then taught me how to bring in a fish and, finally, how to unhook it and release it back into the stream.  Throughout the process, he encouraged and gently corrected and gave me praise when I did something right.  It was a “no lose” situation – I probably could have thrown a rock and got a fish, but the environment he built for me made me want to try.  Sure, I was nervous I would fail or look stupid, but I was willing.  The experience made me want to try again.  It made me want to see what’s possible, where else can I fish, what else can I catch, how much better can I become at fishing.

I need to photograph like I fished – in an environment of nurturing (which may mean not showing a soul), away from my internal censor (who sounds just like my sister) – and pick up my camera like I picked up the fishing rod – without any preconceptions of my abilities and no attachment to the outcome.  Today, I bought a camera.