A friend asked me why I was suddenly so camera-happy, going around taking a crazy amount of pictures. Or maybe she didn’t actually ask. I could just feel her wondering. Either way, I answered, “I’m taking back part of my life.” I’ve been working way too hard for way too long, and it is taking its toll. I am physically, emotionally, and mentally burned out. I have to do something to turn that around, or I will not be able to keep doing my job.
I bought the camera hoping to learn to use it well enough to embark on a few artistic projects. For one, I wanted to take my own photos to use as my own writing prompts. For another, I wanted to explore some of the small towns and historic sites around my state–almost as homage to Eudora Welty who took incredible photographs of Depression Era Mississippi.
What I didn’t know until I had the camera in my hands was that I would be inspired to undertake photography as a daily ritual, immediately jumping into photo-blogging and Flickr-sharing. What I didn’t know was that I would approach photography not as a matter of art but as a matter of health.
It is a time of exercise and meditation for me. I find myself in quiet places looking at the world outside the problems and responsibilities churning around in my head. I walk. I squat. I stretch. I bend. I twist. All in an effort to see more clearly. It is as good as yoga to me.
Sometimes I don’t have much time, but even ten minutes of looking around for pictures usually yields something interesting, and even ten minutes of not thinking about work clears the head and relieves the stress.
This has me wondering if others practice photography in the same way. A Google search for “photography and wellness” yields a bunch of stock photos on subjects related to wellness but not so much articles on the topic. Google is, unfortunately, as far as I’ve gone thus far in my research. I did find a kporterfield.com discussing photography as a healing practice, but kp seems a little out of date as the advice is all about film. How retro.
K Porterfield aside, I have my own ideas about the types of photography I’ve done in just two short weeks and their health benefits.
(1) Food. I started out with the tangerines. Those shots were my first real experiment with the new camera, and they made me more aware of the appearance of my food purchases. That day I just happened to have tangerines and cherries on hand. The next time I went to the store I bought pears and grapes because I wondered how they would look in pictures. That’s when it occurred to me that I had put myself on a pretty food diet for the sake of the camera and that this was also a healthy food diet. There’s nothing whatsoever attractive about a cheesy tot. If you take the time to actually look at your food, you’ll probably buy it the way God and all of Italy always intended, for its healthy color.
(2) Nature. Nature photos mean nature walks. Relaxation + exercise = nothing healthier. Plus, sometimes you make friends with a new dog along the way.
(3) Yard art. I adore yard art. It makes me laugh. It makes me smile. Add that to relaxation and exercise, and it just keeps getting better and better.
(4) Historic sites. I haven’t done much of this yet, but I did go to Cedar Hills Cemetery in Vicksburg to take pictures of the angels there. This I would qualify as a spiritual experience. I walked a lot that day but I didn’t notice because I was entranced with the place. This was walking and watching as meditation. I also learned a few things and remembered a few things I’d once known about the town and its history.
I know there are books about art and wellness and writing and wellness. There are even books about blogging and wellness. I’m going to be on the lookout for books about photography and wellness. If there isn’t more about it out there, someone needs to write it. Photography has something of a unique capacity to hit multiple wellness needs at once. I’m certainly finding that to be true.