Musings on Photography

Solitude

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul Butzi on November 27, 2007

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The past two months have been what I’ll call a wonderful struggle for me. There was a trip to China – fabulous by any standard. There was a one week trip to help my cousins out when their Dad died – the proximate reason for the trip was sad, but the upshot was that I got to reconnect with my cousins. And I’ve just returned from a week long visit to the East Coast, to visit family, celebrate Thanksgiving, and attend my 30th high school reunion. Again, fun stuff all around.

So why the struggle? The struggle is because of the last 54 days, 36 of them have been spent away from home. Of the remaining 18, some 10 of them have been spent getting ready to go someplace, or dealing with just having gotten back. That’s left precious few days where I could get what I really need to have – solitude in whacking great chunks.

I understand that there are people who carefully arrange their days so that each hour is filled in a way where they’re never alone. They need constant contact with other people; that constant contact is what generates the energy that drives their life forward. When they’re alone, they rapidly run down. But I’m not like that. What charges my batteries is being alone. I know I’m not unique, because I’ve just read two books about this.

Now, it turns out that if you want to be a landscape photographer, you’re going to find that it entails being alone a great deal of the time. Time out with the camera is pretty much spent alone. Time spent in the darkroom (or in front of a computer) editing and making prints is solitary. This obvious match between my preferences and the activities of landscape photography are, no doubt, part of what attracts me to the medium.

Introverts like me are, by most accountings, less than one quarter of the population. Are all landscape photographers introverts? And if not, what the heck do the extroverts do to deal with the alone time?

7 Responses

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  1. Andrew said, on November 28, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Paul, I completely understand. I, too, am an introvert and need time alone to recharge. Even just 20 minutes a day of peace, especially outdoors photographing, does wonders. I just returned from Thanksgiving with my family including my toddler son and 3 nieces. It was great fun, but when we got home I could not wait for some time alone. Photography is perfect for folks like us. We can enter our own little world and gain back some energy.

  2. Erik said, on November 28, 2007 at 10:23 am

    I’ve heard of landscape photographers who have a photography buddy – they take someone along. Given the way some extroverts I’ve known get lonely after as little as 30 minutes by themselves, that seems like the only way they could handle it. However, I think that extroverts are much more likely to be drawn to people photography rather than landscapes.

    Personally, I have a job that is almost completely opposed to my introvert nature and it leaves me needing huge amounts of time to recharge. Getting out into nature helps, but I need other ways to get my alone fix if I want to function properly.

  3. Martin Doonan said, on November 28, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I’m with you here. I’ve lived by myself for 10years (or more). Most ask me if I get lonely – not a bit of it. By the time 5:30 comes around, I’ve had enough of people. About the only time I feel lonely is in a crowd.
    I’ve seen some of Erik’s buddy photographers – can’t stand still for 5 minutes to enjoy & observe. When I’m in the hills, I seem to be the only one who sits down just to take in the view.
    Paul, I think you’ve helped me clear my thoughts on why I do some of what I do with photography.

  4. paul said, on November 28, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    I’m with you there, Paul. I prefer my people in very small doses. I love to be alone for large swaths of time. It’s been like that all of my life.

    I much prefer to stay home and read a book rather than to go to a party or some type of gathering. After being at a party, or large get together, I need some ‘down time’ where I am completely alone. Picking up my camera and heading to my favorite park usually seems to do the trick nicely. If that’s not available, off I go to my room to read a book or for a walk, with my dog, through the neighborhood.

  5. Ade said, on November 29, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Over three-quarters of the population are extroverts?? That explains why everyone is constantly P*SSING ME OFF! 🙂

    I always remember the summary I got from an online Keirsey test once:
    “Effusive expression of emotional warmth is not something that ISTJs do without considerable energy loss.”
    Energy loss – that sums it up. Interacting with others takes a lot of energy.

  6. Dan Leonard said, on November 29, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Paul, in your post, you said, “… because I’ve just read two books about this.” Can you tell us which two books?

    Thanks.

  7. Paul Butzi said, on November 29, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Dan-

    The two books are “Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus (ISBN 978-1569245132) and “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney (ISBN 978-0761123699).

    “Party of One” is, in my not at all humble opinion, written in a way that comes off as somewhat angry and whiney. I don’t know that I’d recommend it, honestly, although if you’re an introvert and haven’t read anything at all about the plight of introverts in an extroverted world, it will surely be comforting to learn that other people share your plight.

    “Introvert Advantage” seemed even less worthwhile. It’s full of tips for introverts, including pointers on how to schmooze at parties, etc. (My primary tip on how to deal with parties is to go read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “The Art of Disappearing”.)

    The problem is that for introverts, about all a book about introversion can do is tell you that if you’re a certain way, then you’re an introvert and the rest of the world doesn’t get it. And you’ve probably figured that out by now anyway, so the book doesn’t seem to help much, even if it gives you a long list of famous introverts.

    On the other hand, they’re better than nothing at all.


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