Alone

In talking to friends who are and have been photographers for many and many years, the undercurrent that permeates conversations these days is the overwhelming sense of isolation many of us feel. While photography has always been a loner’s discipline, the recent social and economic upheavals have played havoc with our sense of being connected to the world. The first erosion of this feeling of belonging came with our embrace of Photoshop. In our haste to control our digital files, we killed off the labs. Moreover, our logic-driven (but totally misguided) demand for the lowest price on everything we bought killed off most of the good camera stores. With the labs and the retailers gone we lost two points of intersection that were part of the fabric of the photographer’s (professional or amateur alike) social life. Unlike our Latin and European counterparts, who have rich history of men socializing over coffee during the day or drinks in the late afternoons, our Calvinistic society demands efficiency and frowns upon time spent unproductively. In order to preserve our sense of well-being I think us photographers must adopt new strategies to reincorporate ourselves into the every day fabric of communal life. We need to leave our dark caves and reconnect.

I have a program and I’m following it as well as I can:

1. Coffee outside the house. Find a coffee shop or diner with a fun crowd and go there for your coffee (yes, I understand the accountant driven “Latte Factor” of economics, but have you priced psychiatric care lately? Believe me, two bucks for a cup of coffee is a bargain…).

2. Have at least one lunch a week with a friend or peer. Complain, celebrate, talk “nerd-talk”. Bond.

3. Have a project to work on. I always try to organize exhibits of my work. It puts me in the public eye and it is a beautiful goal.

4. Find a cause you feel very strongly about and donate your photographic talent. You’ll get practice, exposure and move the game forward for your cause.

5. Help someone else get their project done. You get karma and you learn something new.

Finally,

6. Stop making lists like this and get out into the real world. Life is still swirling around and, if we live it fully, we might make better art, meet nicer people, and feel less alone.

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About Mauro Metallo

A Writer and Photographer equally at home in Italy and in Canada.

2 responses to “Alone”

  1. Imants says :

    Didn’t get past point one ……. my cave has a exceptionally good cafe “goannamanor” great coffee,a nice treat and the company of my wife

  2. davecandoit says :

    I’ll tell you something about myself that might come as a surprise, Mauro. I suffer from social anxiety disorder. In a nutshell, it’s something like acute shyness, but coupled to an irrational fear of being judged by others. Simply put, I don’t get out much.

    But that’s the wonderful thing about photography. It’s an art form that for the most part can be practised in utter isolation. No worries about saying or doing the wrong thing, or interacting with others or explaining the “why” behind your work. You operate entirely alone and you get to decide what you want to share with others. Most photos (in my case) never see the light of day. The ones I’m really happy with I’ll post to my blog. When people comment I get to sit back and carefully consider my reply before composing it. I don’t have to worry about blushing or what others might think of what I’m wearing or what I look like or having interesting things to say, etc…

    On the other side, it is indeed a lonely hobby. Most of my friends aren’t interested so I try to keep photography talk to a minimum. When I go to Henry’s Photography Store to discuss possibly purchasing this or that, most of the sales staff are stuffy and stuck up with a desire to ensure you understand how entirely indifferent they are to your presence in their store.

    When I went to the Heritage Lighting Event downtown I really tried to chat with other photographers (they were everywhere), but I got the same anti-social reaction. Maybe it was because I wasn’t dragging around a five pound full frame behemoth Canon or Nikon and they didn’t think it would look good for them to be talking to someone with a unworthy point & shoot, I don’t know. I do know I won’t make the mistake of trying to engage another photographer on the street again. Very unpleasant and embarrassing.

    But with all that said, I do like your list and your thoughts on trying to keep photography a somewhat social hobby. I’ve been thinking of taking a night school photography course or three at George Brown in order to meet other like-minded individuals. Years ago I took a Ryerson night school course in creative writing and a few members of our class formed a social writing group that met once or twice a month for two years afterwards. It was tons of fun. There’s no reason photography can’t be as much fun, on a social level.

    Anyway, great post and excellent photo. I keep telling myself I have to get out and explore our subway system one of these days. There are plenty of great photos to be had down there.

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