Musings on Photography

Camera in Hand/Peace of Mind

Posted in art is a verb, process by Paul Butzi on October 30, 2008

Dave Kosiur asks:

I’m not sure I understand why you need a camera in your hand to find peace of mind? Do you not stop to admire the same scenes without a camera in hand?

I haven’t said that I need a camera in my hand to find peace of mind. What I’ve said is that these days, when I head out with the camera in my hand for a short stroll down my lengthy driveway, what I’m looking for is peace of mind. Are there other ways to find peace of mind? Sure.

But this one works for me with a high degree of certainty. I’m a big believer in what works. We can theorize about things all day long, but it turns out the real world doesn’t care about our theories. The real world just is, and we can either pretend that our theories are reality, or we can live in the real world. There are lots of things I can do that potentially give me peace of mind. There are only a couple that seem to have an ironclad guarantee, and heading down the driveway with the camera is one of them.

I know that when I head down the driveway with the camera in hand and the dog at my side, I’ll find some modicum of peace of mind along the way before I come back to the house. I know this, if I may borrow a phrase from George Fox, experimentally. I have had the experience of walking down my driveway both with and without my camera, and I know that I am more likely to come back happy if I have the camera with me when I head out.

It seems that every time I write a post that mentions that I have a great experience somewhere with a camera, learning about that place I am and how it works – every time I do that, someone feels a need to suggest “But couldn’t you do that without a camera?”

And my point is this – maybe I could, and maybe I couldn’t. But the walk with the camera is known to work, and although I do have a nice time taking a walk without a camera, I seem to have a nicer time taking a walk with one. With the camera, I seem to see more deeply, notice more and different things. The process of making photographs is a source of calm for me.

People can have a nice time at the tennis court, sitting and enjoying the sun or the breeze. Or they can have a nice time there, playing tennis, which requires rackets and a tennis ball. They are both nice experiences but they are not the same nice experience.

Maybe I’m the only person on the planet who regulates his life by taking walks with a camera. If so, that’s ok by me. Like Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, for myself I am best when least in company and with a camera in hand.

5 Responses

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  1. JH said, on October 30, 2008 at 11:28 am

    If it works, don’t fix it… I agree that a camera on a walk is a great thing to have. You get exercise for both the mind and the body – I typically do 1-2 hour walks with my camera.

  2. Jeremy Moore said, on October 30, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Very eloquently put, Paul; I just emailed this post’s link to my wife because she often asks me the same question.

  3. MaryElise said, on October 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I agree. The few times I have left for a walk, or for anywhere, without my camera I have usually regretted it. It seems once you are so accustomed to taking photos on a regular basis, you view everything in a frame. At least I do. I know I see things differently than the non-photographers I know. Reliving that moment I experienced once again in an image I’ve captured is certainly extending the pleasure.

  4. Les Richardson said, on October 30, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I also like to wander around on the hills here, seeking inspiration. If I may be permitted… the camera helps ‘focus’ on viewing and perceiving in a certain. There is certainly a learned component to this, but it _is_ inspirational, for me.

  5. Peter Williams said, on October 31, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Good reply. I too esacpe and recharge by going for a walk with my camera. Without I sometimes have regrets, with I usually feel satisfied and renewed.
    Keep up the good work.

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