There is soul in the eyes of others. There is beauty in the simple lines of shadows on pavement or the oily puddles making rainbows in a parking lot. I can picture these beautiful photographs in my mind right now. But, instead of creating them, I often find myself snapping a selfie. These selfies are rarely good enough to share so they end up living in my phone, collecting digital dust.
A few weeks ago, through Generation Justice, I met Miguel Gandert. Miguel is a renowned New Mexican photographer.His culture-rich images are exquisite and familiar. During his lecture, Miguel mentioned that more pictures have been taken in the last few years than during the entire history of photography. This is because we take pictures of everything: our food, our nails, our coffee cups. Many of us take a selfie a day.
Miguel’s words stuck with me. I began to take stock of the images I have been creating lately. And many of them were of the same ilk: done quickly out of habit, then abandoned.
But my quick little selfies and snapshots don’t mean much to me and they’re often bad photography. It could be because they’re not honest. I’m capturing images of myself not as I am in real life, or even in the moment. There is a strange disconnect between myself and my selfies.
For example, I’ve often stopped what I am doing and begged my son to “take a selfie with mommy!” The poor guy is usually miserable looking while I affect a strange, uber-happy persona; raised eyebrows and a cheshire cat smile. It comes off as forced and a little bit deranged.
I Imagine if I took the same time and intention and used it to compose beautiful images of my environments. What if I studied the shadow of a building with the same effort I do the shadows under my eyes?
I love photography. I love the way an image can arrest my attention and induce instant emotion. For me, there was always something comforting about developing film or taking shot after shot to capture a split second in time.
These are the moments I relish, the moments which actually tell a story.
And that is the essence of my frustration. I’m not telling a story when I turn the camera on myself. My story is what I see in the world; the saffron sunset after a rainy day, the leaves of a tree flapping a mad dance in the breeze. It’s so much more interesting than “Kateri sitting in her living room” or “Kateri sitting in her car.”
Perhaps what I’m frustrated with is my own narcissism. But what is more self-gratifying than being proud of your own piece of work? I guess what I want is to be more…like myself. My real self: Kateri who takes time to consider the story an image tells and creates, not out of boredom, but out of the love of her craft and her surroundings.