The Point of Photography is to Disappear

I have had a lot of interesting hobbies and pastimes over the decades, from distance cycling to black powder shooting, and all of them have enriched my life. But I have had only two passions: running, and photography. I no longer run, and I miss it. When I ran, I disappeared, or the world disappeared, or sometimes the world was just reduced to the exact spot my foot next contacted the ground. In any case, what was left was a silence and a kind of emptiness in which nothing that was not good or not peaceful existed. It was pleasant, satisfying, and restorative. 

I can’t get there running anymore, but I can get there with a camera. Or at least, if I can’t get in the exact same room I can still get in the house.  A camera becomes a sort of meta-lens which not only focusses the physical environment in front of it, but focuses awareness and brings attention down to a point. That is,  photography can lock one into the present moment, entirely disconnecting one from the past and the future. When this happens,  the place one is at is no longer like a landscape of consciousness with three dimensions, it is like a point. The point is surrounded by peripherals: the physical camera, the target one wishes to photograph, a vague awareness of temperature, sunlight, etc., but these are not the point–literally. 

I’m at a loss to describe “the point”  with words. It is more difficult than trying to describe the shape of an egg, or the color of a sunset the other person did not witness. It is something many have experienced, through one portal or another; it’s just hard to put into words.  With photography , I reach it after a hunt: I am looking for something which, by virtue of its color, composition, or symbolic content, will convey a message or create interest when reconstructed as a photograph. I can’t start my hunt with any preconceptions of what that will be, as preconceptions would become walls that prevented me from reaching and remaining in the here-and-now. 

Reaching the here-and-now is like climbing aboard a dandelion tuft caught by a breeze. You can’t guide it, you just hold on, and trust that if you let it become the vehicle of your journey you will arrive at some place interesting. Almost always, you do, and then you become aware of the complex electronic device you have been holding, you do the necessary physical movements to make it work, and then–with luck–you have captured that thing which you did not know what it would be, but now is yours. 

At that point you may need to leave the here-and-now, and return to the larger physical landscape you’ve been moving through. Time restraints, or fatigue, or something else, will eventually terminate your hunt,  and then you will deal with whatever the Real World sets before you. But the feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and renewal linger, and though they are never permanent I think they accumulate over time, like pleasant memories that fade but never disappear.

3 thoughts on “The Point of Photography is to Disappear”

  1. I, too, enjoy losing myself when I am photographing. However, then I come home and lose hours processing raw images. I like the fact that my images look better when I use the raw image processing. I like losing myself in the photography. I just don’t like the time that it takes to get through the technical left-brain process.

  2. I used to enjoy photography myself and remember in grade school, where for some odd reason we could take another subject for a week or two during the school year. I shot black and white photos and remember it being a lot of fun. It satisfied the tiny artist that lives in me. Never went much farther, but was fun while it lasted.
    I do like the pictures you post. Some are quite amazing and help me realize we made the right decision staying here.

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