Sometimes I find myself running around frenetically searching for images, searching for the muse that seems to having hidden somewhere around the next corner. Or maybe the next after that again. It most often happens when I arrive in a new place, I have an assignment and limited days available before I know I will have to fly out again – and bring back those images that the client has asked, and not the least paid, for. It’s like my body gets all geared up and almost aimlessly runs wild. And the more I frenetically run around like that the more the muse will hide for me.
Then I know I need to stop. I need to let go. And I need to sink into the situation rather than keep running. Really let go. The photos will be right where I am – and not around the next corner. If only I let myself open up to what is. The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said: «I’m not responsible for my photographs. It’s drowning yourself, dissolving yourself and then sniff, sniff, sniff – being sensitive to the coincidence. You can’t go looking for it; you can’t want it, or you won’t get it. First you must lose yourself. Then it happens.»
I don’t know why we photographers always believe the gold is around the next corner – or at the end of the rainbow. Why we go to the far corners of the world hoping to find that one photograph that will for always give us peace in mind? Is it something with the process of collecting snippets of real life? That craving after what we don’t have, believing the grass is always greener on the other side, which manifests itself in the photographic process? Or do other artists do the same?
The thing is what we might be looking for is where we are. And if we are already there, there is nowhere to go. We don’t have to look around the next corner. You have all that you will ever need – right here and right now.
I do love to travel and go to new places. I will openly admit that, but I have also learned that going to remote places, doesn’t make me see better or capture better photos. While travelling is great fun and can be a source of inspiration, we need to be careful that we are not just caught up in the endless need for novelty. What is required to grow as an artist is not running around to one place or clinging to another. The fullness of experience and the richness of treasures are only discovered when we realize they are within and when that within is being in balance with out. 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.» Our work is to drop the burdens that obstruct seeing, and, yes, to be still. Let go. Breathe. And allow yourself to sink into the situation. More times than not, images will reveal themselves.
I think I learned the lesson as a kid. We were always on the move. From one place to another, not staying longer than one year at most in any place. I learned a valuable insight – without being consciously aware of it at the time: It is possible to bloom wherever you are planted. Later in life I put the experience from my childhood together, realizing that we don’t need to be somewhere else than we are. That insight has also completely changed the way I go travelling. It’s not for the thrill of experiencing something new and «better» but to learn more about life and myself.
«Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.» – Joseph Campbell