Last weekend, I went camping solo on the south shore of Lake Nipissing in Ontario. I wanted the time alone to hear my thoughts, explore the province, and take pictures.
I quickly learned that 90% percent of my thoughts are actually not thoughts at all, but random songs.
But the other, darker thoughts came when I started taking pictures. When I was young, I took photos all the time, until some of my younger friends took up photography. They had so much talent, improved so fast, and they quickly gained hundreds or thousands of Instagram followers. In comparison, my photos were cliche and boring. I decided that I wasn’t really cut out to be a photographer, and withdrew. I stopped taking so many photos, and almost completely stopped posting them. Stopped taking the kinds of photos that I loved to take.
Last weekend, I hiked through a beautiful forest, up to a summit where I could see across the lake, and I scrolled my Instagram to see how someone else would take the shots I wanted to take.
I hoped I would be inspired and get fresh ideas from the photographers I admire. Instead, I scrolled through pictures of jeeps kicking up dust, beautiful women in Bali, and vast landscapes in wide angle, and thought “this view isn’t good enough. My camera isn’t good enough. My eye isn’t good enough.”
I took the pictures anyway, put my camera away and simply soaked in the moment.
Then the mosquitoes ate me alive.
There are two ways I know that I must protect myself when I approach social media.
As a consumer, I have to be careful not to compare my life – which I see in full colour, in three dimensions, in all its ugly, messy, glorious chaos – with the curated, edited, carefully selected images that others present to the world.
As a creator, when I’m putting my work into the world, I have to be careful that it’s not to satisfy my ego or mask my insecurities.
When I first started taking photos, I found so much joy in photography. I carried a panasonic camera in my pocket wherever I went and took photos of whatever caught my eye. When I discovered my dad’s Olympus OM-2, I fell in love with the careful consideration that film photography takes, the click-ching of the shutter, and the look of the developed film. I didn’t know I was capable of capturing such magical images.
That joy goes away when I start competing with others for attention, validation, and self worth. The joy comes again when I remember that the moment I am in is a gift, and it is good enough. I am good enough.