Isolation

It’s not until you are forced to isolate that you realize to what degree photography is a social activity. I don’t mean just taking photos but the whole lifecycle of a photo. Planning, travelling, publishing your work – it all depends on a social infrastructure we usually take for granted. From the inspiration we take and the feedback we receive to the coffee we are able to buy early morning, before we get to the location, it is all part of how we organize our life together.

Lisbon/Alfama, Nov 2019. Harsh afternoon light can be interesting. This scene wouldn’t have worked at sunrise or sunset. The sun needs to be high enough so that this church entrance is directly lit, with all the shadows and patterns it creates.

While getting feedback online may have gotten easier, with so many people staying at home, other parts of this social web are not doing ok. That seller of coffee may never reopen. Your retired photographer friend may fall seriously ill. Anxiety and depression are a lot closer than usual.

Is there a silver lining to this?

I think so. I think there always is, even in the gloomiest of situations.

For one, isolation gives a lot of head space. You have the time to reflect on what is it that attracted you to photography in the first place. Or what made you start a particular photo project and invest so much of you into it. Or where you want to go from here, how you want to develop. These simple questions may be at the back of our heads, but chances are we don’t often confront them directly. Even with the activities we love, we are functioning most of the time on autopilot.

Isolation also gives us the chance to look more closely at the work we did so far. Organize it better. Maybe drop the conventional categories that you used so far on your website or blog to group and present your photos. Find more organic ways of connecting them, that goes across traditional categories. Put together portraits, landscapes and urban shots that are all about light – the quality of light and how it transforms the scene.

This may result in more work. Revamping that site. Think differently about what are our best photographs. Go back and re-edit some of them.

This may also result in a radical change of the type of photography that we do. Business as usual is not particularly conducive to revolutionary changes, even if we’ve been feeling stuck or unhappy with that way of doing things for a long time. Disruptions are painful, but they also make it easier to accept change.

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