In the past few weeks I have been tidying up so much that even Marie Kondo could be jealous of it. It is my natural response to loss, I could not tell you what the psychological explanation for this phenomenon is, but this is what I do. Whilst tidying up I found my painted moodboards that I made many, many years ago and one of them was called Dare To Be Different and another The Art Of Being Unique.
This has obviously been something that I have always believed in. I have to admit that I had to believe in this, because in school I was isolated and bullied for being different, which was a result of me being sensitive and always worried about my mum's wellbeing who had been ill with a debilitating disease from my earliest childhood. It was there where I learned to distrust group behaviour and to be able to be my own unique being. At one point I gave up the need to fit in and embraced the not fitting in. It has become a way of life for me in a way and in that way I can be grateful that this is the result of my childhood.
Reading this title of The Art Of Being Unique again, I thought it did not quite hit the nail on the head. There is no art in being unique, as we are all unique, but....there is art in embracing what makes us unique and putting this into the things we create. It is the purpose of creating, which means bringing something new into existence. In this way, art does not come from being unique, but from translating our unique being into creations that somehow tell our story.
Tidying up is an invitation to introspection, or so I have noticed. Whilst sorting my things out, I found delight both in removing things that gave me bad vibes and finding those little treasures that evoke a sense of wonder in me. This quest for being in wonder has also been with me my entire life. I still love to find things in the most improbable places. It is what gives me the greatest sense of delight and fills my heart with joy.
The things that evoke this sense of wonder will be different for each person. I can revel at a stone with fossils in it, whilst you might think it looks utterly boring. The very things that speak to us are sort of a gateway to our unique being. It is hard to define what makes you unique if you try to use words and try to excavate your brain for uniqueness. It is those little things that hold the clues.
What you might consider insignificant preferences are actually signposts to how you perceive or how you wish to perceive the world. My preferences and background made me into who I am today and all of this is weaved into my pictures. My distrust of group dynamics is translated into seeking stillness in locations away from hot spots, my seeking refuge from reality is still very present in my fairytale-like pictures and having grown up with a parent who had a debilitating disease has taught me to never ever give up on your dreams, if you have the opportunity to pursue them, to work very hard for the things you believe in and to seize the moment, because it will never return.
Recently someone asked me where I find all of these fantasy forests. As I don't feel like locations are mine to share and I also don't want the responsibility of getting to decide which locations to make popular just by geotagging my images, that are seen by many thousands of people leading to possible destruction of fragile areas, I have to reply in honesty that I find them everywhere. My entire philosophy, if one can call it that, is to find stillness and magic in areas that are not popular. I find the tiny scenes, sometimes no more than 7 by 3 meters and I blissfully spend time in these areas for hours before the right way to take a picture is revealed to me. Having said that, I only ever go to areas that I call home. So it is not a question of where to find a fairytale forest, but how to find the fairytale in a forest.
I don't feel the need to hop on an airplane and look for other possibly fantastic places. I am perfectly satisfied with standing in wonder of a small scene that changes in appearance in the "right" conditions. I have had people ask where this wonderful forest was, when I had actually taken a picture of trees on a parking lot. I think Roald Dahl's quote "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it" is very true. I also think that those who do believe in magic will be able to find it anywhere.
I had to believe in a magical side to reality, to put my trust in being enchanted by what planet earth has to offer, rather than what the world's sometimes grim reality. The world is the place humanity inhabits, which in this case happens to be Earth. The unfortunate thing for this planet is that humanity, being only one of many life forms, has decided in its infinite wisdom that it may rule over every other manifestation of life on Earth and also consume all of Earth's magic only to dispose of it as if it means nothing. I care deeply about Earth, but humanity has me worried.
The enchantment and stillness I seek are vulnerable. I really hope that people who need to find the same kind of stillness, who feel the need to seek healing in nature, who want to find solitude and a place where they can be free from worries just for a while, to escape from the world, can still do so in the years to come. That people who create from deep within, from their own unique being and with humble respect for this planet, will still be able to hold onto what makes them unique and to create from this place instead of trying to fit in. It is not an easy thing these days when platforms like Instagram give off this feeling that in order for you to be something you must be liked by the masses. I am here to tell you that you are already enough and being popular will not make you more so. Hold onto your truth, find it, do some soul-searching, find out what makes you you...what makes you unique and put this into your art. Remember that innovation will never be found in doing the same as everyone else.
Bring something new into existence, something only you can. This world needs more of it.
If you enjoyed this blog essay and my work and would like to learn more about taking magical pictures in forests, please consider purchasing my eBook The Magic Of Forest Photography. Your support is greatly appreciated.