The expression of the unique self in photography or any other kind of art is really important to me. It is one of those subjects that immediately gets me into gear or climb on my soapbox. Lately I received quite a few messages and comments expressing a certain amount of surprise that my pictures had not turned dark and gloomy with all that has been going on in my life. This in turn surprised me as it had never even crossed my mind. I thought this was worth thinking about for a while. After all, I am all about expression of oneself in one's art...
What it all comes down to is that my emotions of sadness, grief and despair are just emotions that I HAVE. They are not who I AM. Yes, I have been experiencing dark and raw emotions, but it has always been very clear to me that they do not define me. Emotions come and go. Happiness is a fleeting emotion and so is sadness, even though the latter one likes to linger a bit longer. They however have very little to do with who I am and how I look at this planet.
I simply refuse to be disenchanted. This is not the result of some kind of escape to fairyland, but the simple truth is that there is not just one reality. If lead by my emotions only, yes....my reality would have felt dark and gloomy. Reality on this planet though always has a flip side. Of all the dreadful things that happen and that you can see on the news every day (which I don't watch), you could just as easily find just as many wondrous and miraculous things. It is a matter of what you focus on which reality is more true for you.
Even though life was hard for me since my earliest childhood, I have never ever lost my connection to the side of reality that fills me with a sense of wonder. This is how I see this planet. I am not using the word "world" as you might notice. To me world is what humanity inhabits, earth is this incredible planet with all its spectacular manifestations of life and geological processes.
I think that if your photography is to be like a journal, in which you process feelings, thoughts, experiences and emotions, this is a form of self expression. I tend to process things on paper, I write an awful lot. Photography for me is more about being true to my true nature. Emotions might colour it slightly, but probably more in the opposite direction of the emotions.
A few weeks ago I went to the famous Speulderbos again. It was forecasted to rain the entire day and that was fine with me. I was stressed out over all the things that I had had to process and deal with and I needed some peace and quiet. I walked into the forest, the stress was gone, the darkness that veiled my brain was lifted and I felt stillness. This is what the forest does for me. I can't feel sad in the forest, I can't help myself but feel enchanted within minutes. I was almost alone that morning. The rain kept falling, it must have been dreary for everyone else, it was still and wondrous to me. When I walked back to the car I passed a woman on a bench. She was crying, I walked quietly passed her, thinking : I came to this place with the same emotions, yet....my sense of wonder took over instantly and put the emotions to the side...
This is why my pictures might even become more serene, more filled with wonder, because somehow I feel more connected to that than ever. One of the things most worth protecting is a sense of wonder. I think I have always been inclined to see reality like this. It is who I am. A sense of wonder breaks through repetitive and useless thinking, it puts sadness and grief aside, because those emotions are usually fueled by thoughts and thoughts simply don't coexist well with a sense of wonder.
Whatever we choose to put out there, let it be something authentic, let it come from within. Let it not be contaminated with the desire for the work to be popular. Let it be pure, no matter if you are expressing your deepest feelings, opinions or who you essentially are. Let it be something that you're invested in, deeply and wholeheartedly. Let it be something you care about and about which you have a story to tell in your own visual language. Let a sense of wonder be your guiding light.
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