Sometimes I feel a sense of futility in life. Perhaps no more than once a day, and then never for more than 24 hours. Occasionally less.
I have doubtless spoken before of an insatiable curiosity. Life is lived vicariously through books and articles, through photographs and conversations. Life is a series of hyperlinks. Reading one thing sparks a leap to another. Cerebral spaghetti. Some things stick permanently. Others lie lurking, flashing briefly through the mind then disappearing again. Some gnaw away, taunting and goading as they do so.
The problem with seeking inspiration is the sense that it is all just too late. I made an horrific mistake today. I picked up Frans Lanting’s book, Jungles. Twenty years in gestation, a image-chronicle of photographic derring-do, losing 10 camera bodies to the jungle in 3 months, watching larvae emerge from his leg, seeing the wires of his remote camera gear eaten by ants as well as their devouring his tents. I’m afraid I’m a sad case of derring-don’t. I can’t stand leeches. Jungles and leeches tend to go hand in hand. If I started a 10 or 20 year project know it would probably be part of a boxed set – with me in the box. It is tempting though.
I am also about to re-read The Endurance by Caroline Alexander. This is of course the account of Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. I shall feel like a complete wimp at the end, realising what the human mind and body can do if survival is at stake. My biggest decision today will be whether to eat the blueberries or not.
One thing I have taken up in the last few days is a position as a Moderator on a Google + Community. Not surprisingly it is Bird Photography. I had no idea how many people there are who merrily post images under their own name having ‘lifted’ (for want of a harsher word) the image from another site. The Community owner introduced me to a clever little extension for Google Chrome called TinEye. With this and Google’s own image search tool it is possible to find out quickly if an image matches another on the web. Then the detective work starts to see whether the posted image is owned by the same person or requires proper attribution and/or consent. I am also allowed to select images for Photo of the Day. Each of the moderators will I am sure bring their preferences to the assessments. I have never before moderated a social media group. Yet another learning experience.
I am also impressed at the quality of the work I am seeing. I find the selectability of G+ to be much better than FB. My home page filters to me a selection of posts from those who I have elected to follow. Since I know very few of them personally the issue of “friendship” simply does not arise. I think FB has corrupted the concept of friendship. Many people on my list are ‘people with common interests’. Others would undoubtedly pass the friendship test but with them I tend to maintain a dialogue away from FB also. G+ feels more professional once you get used to it. Looking at high quality work is almost guaranteed to inspire you and make you strive to do better. It also gives me ideas and, equally importantly, reminds me what has become so standardised that frankly unless I can do something different I am failing to create, only copy, knowingly or not.
I am now beginning to think about next year. My contract expires on December 31st and that means no pocket-money. The cash has been helpful but the real benefit has been in keeping my brain active, researching, analysing, presenting, writing, listening, coaching, all things that give me a sense of usefulness. Sharing knowledge and experience is rewarding. Someone said to me recently ‘thank you for sharing your wisdom’. I was quite taken aback. Thoroughly chuffed, I was. And it was sincere. That is what I worked for over the decades. Not money but recognition, professional respect.
In some respects then I feel that futility is in itself futile. We all have a contribution to make. We all have a passion that drives us if we unlock it. My challenge is getting off my *** and doing it. Whatever it is, I feel it involves a camera, the written word and a teaching component. I wrote a piece recently trying to explain how I believe photography can be used as a tool for learning new perspectives. If only I could follow my own advice.