Well - Friday was a strange day when I got invited to take part in a discussion on Saturday's BBC breakfast about whether people are taking too many holiday snaps rather than living in the moment. I appeared with the charming Cary Cooper (no relation), a psychologist specialising in well-being (which was also a focus of the degree I just graduated in).
Now - given my history of heart-pounding nerves when it comes to public speaking, I was quite surprised to find myself saying yes to this opportunity, and even more surprised to find myself really enjoying it. The BBC team were naturals at putting me at ease, and the studio was actually quite small with only a camera man and floor manager in the room, alongside the very lovely presenters Naga Munchetty and Roger Johnson. It really was just like talking to people on a couch. Nice people.
I felt confident and at ease with what I was saying, I felt calm and relaxed and proud of myself afterwards. But I then noticed in the following days that I began to feel a wee backlash of shame at the holiday photos that I had chosen to show them (they asked me to send them some). I've not been one for travelling, and any excuse to leave my huge heavy camera at home is fine by me. I deliberately sent them photos taken on phones and point and shoots to normalise photography (which I then failed to talk about) - and I didn't really think about my professional profile. Calling myself a professional will always feel weird, and my ability to never have a business card on me adds to how self-forgetting I can be about 'business'. So as an antidote to this shame, I decided to share here that I had felt it (and still do), because feeling shame is common and normalising that helps.
I also realised how much I had to say on the topic and only had a few minutes to share a few sound-bites- so I thought I'd do a little post here to get down some of my other thoughts.
The SOUL of holiday photos.
- Photography can be a tool to mindfulness, to drinking in your surroundings and interpreting details you might have missed had you not been looking. It can also be a tool to forgetfulness, taking a photo instead of lingering in the moment, and rushing on to the next opportunity instead. Which one of these you practice is your choice and is something to be aware of.
- Being on social media and posting photos while you are away robs you of an opportunity to linger. My advice would be to wait until you are home before posting photos online. This gives you the chance to re-live the holiday and savour it all over again. Using the photos as a ritual experience allows yourself to integrate the 'holiday you', with the you that must return to daily life. Enjoy the tail of strokes that likes and comments will give you while you are back at work and missing your time away, but keep the holiday for really BEING there.
- Take photos that evoke - what do they tell you of what you felt, what the texture was like, what the smell was like. Have you even checked in with yourself to be aware of these things in yourself?
- Revisit photos. Make a regular ritual (perhaps at new year) of looking through your online albums to see the archive of what you have experienced. Perhaps print a few favourites and keep them in a wooden box for rainy days.
- Have a day on holiday where you leave the camera at home. Have the courage to have an unwitnessed experience - captured only in your body, your senses and your memory. If there's something you wish you'd had a camera for - stand and soak up the sight for a minute or so, let it sink into your consciousness so you have less need for the photo. A life lived is better than a life that looks lived.
- Edit yourself - if you take six photos of the same thing, pick the most emotive and get rid of the rest. Having too many photos might dilute the strength of your favourite ones. Cut down your album to be about showcasing the photos that really say something.
- Tell a story - one that you can believe. You don't need to tell an exaggerated one about how interesting or stylish or cool or fun your experience has been - tell yourself the narrative that your soul needs to hear.
- We don't just live in the moment, we also live in past memories and in future anticipation. Curating your memories is a worthy skill that is especially helpful for those who struggle with low mood. Having images that remind you that you have friends, have experienced love, happiness and fun, can be really useful when low times hit again.
- The best camera to use is the one you have with you. Your camera phone is already better than most cameras from history - don't let kit be an excuse for not getting creative with your subject.
- Get rid of the notion of perfect or right. It wont help you unlock your creativity.
I'm sure there were a lot more thoughts - but that'll do for now. Oh and the photo of the TV was taken by Dan as he watched at home - ironically meaning he didn't catch a lot of what was said because he was too distracted living life through the lens. Still - I'm pleased he did! It's a lovely memory to have an image of.