I think all photographers dream about the big adventure – travelling to some remote place at the end of the world where we will capture the best ever photos, make the ultimate photo essay and just be totally immersed in an experience so deep and profound both photographically and spiritually speaking. I certainly have – and I have also been blessed and lucky in that I have been able to travel to and photograph many electrifying places.
But more and more I have come to realise that the best pictures aren’t necessarily found at the end of the world. They are found in your own backyard. Figuratively – and for me also literarily – speaking. When we travel to those far-off and, yes, exciting places it’s just too easy to be captured by the exotic and different in this world we meet around every corner. Our pictures never become more than superficial and shallow clichés. While on the home ground you know the deeper relationships, the profound human aspects and your own connections to what you photograph.
I can’t let go of thinking about Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. In this clever fable, a young shepherd sets out on a dangerous mission to seek a treasure, only to discover that it was hidden in his own backyard. This is a universal wisdom portrayed in many books, religious and traditions, but it is one that we often dismiss. Instead of exploring backyards, we become young shepherds, going off on a mission.
The fullness of experience and the richness of treasures are only discovered when we realize they are within. Creativity and vision are available to all who are willing to listen to the wise words of Lao Tzu: «Be still and let the mud settle.»
For me it means to sit down in my backyard. Be still. Listen. Take in the full world that is in everything. At home. Right now. Where I am. It’s just too easy to run around aimlessly and frenetically, searching for images. Particularly when we are on this big adventure of our life time. We can’t risk not getting the picture. And end up missing them all. I truly believe if you can’t take great image in your own places, you won’t get them travelling to the end of the world.
By this I don’t mean to say that there is anything wrong with travelling. I for one certainly will continue to enjoy travelling to new places, learn about new cultures, get to know new friends, meet other aspects of human lives and thus broaden my horizon. I just want to point out that the profound and engaging pictures that touch others might be found closer to home. We certainly don’t have to travel to the end of the world. As I have already mentioned I use my backyard to let go of everything else, take pictures without any pretentious motives, just find myself and sink into a deep almost spiritual experience. Like I did the other day. Nothing ground breaking, but just a lovely free time with myself and my senses wide open.