growth spirituality

I Am Not a Photographer – An Exploration of Identifications

Since returning home near the end of February from my last bout of travels, I haven’t been able to take photographs.  It’s been a somewhat strange experience as it has simply felt like my right index finger has been unable to press the shutter button on my camera.  It has a sense of emasculation to it as there hasn’t been any real capacity in that finger to do what is needed to take photographs.  The more I’ve sat with that and tried to understand it, the more I’ve come to realize that it is a deeper intelligence in me that is not allowing me to continue with having an “identification” as a photographer.  Something about this identification has been feeling false to me, as would a cloak that I can wear when going out into the world so that I can feel more comfortable, less exposed in my ultimate nakedness.

I’ve been going through a metamorphosis of sorts lately (see “More Like the Butter, Less Like the Fly”) and one of the results of that is that anything that feels egoicly based, or “false” as I prefer saying, is completely anathema to me, and I just want to be rid of it.  I’d much rather sit naked at home than venture into the world wearing a false cloak.  Although I’ve been much more capable of interacting socially than I was when I returned home at the end of February, it still can be difficult for me at times, especially when it is time spent with people who don’t have much personal experience with the changes I am undergoing.

I spent several weeks feeling fairly deconstituted, having shed some form of egoic shell but not having assumed a new covering (or comfort with the lack of covering), much like a crab who has molted his shell, my outer layer of protection has been gone and it has felt best to hole up in a crevice with my books until something started to re-inform a more expanded version of myself.

A couple of days ago, I started printing images I had taken in the past as I am planning to submit them to a magazine I enjoy (The Sun Magazine) which published one of my images several years back when I first submitted to them.  Through this printing process, I’ve fallen in love with photography again.  I’ve included here some of those images, all taken last year.  I haven’t thought through exactly why I have this love of photography, but it certainly has something to do with how it assists in seeing beauty in the world and in life as it unfolds.  My love for it also has something to do with how certain images simply resonate with my soul, as if viewing them is the plucking of a string which then has the capacity to vibrate a sympathetic harmonic string within my soul.  It is definitely more of an ontological experience which is somewhat difficult to explain with words.  The feeling reminds me of a time many years ago at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam where I stood there gazing at one of his painting for an extended time simply because there was something in my soul resonating with it.

Being a Photographer has been impossible lately for me because I see how my identity has become tied up in it.  We all have identities which provide us with a buffer from the realization that we are simply specks in time, our lives no more important or valuable than any other, our identities serving as cover for a myriad of personal insecurities.  Having an identity gives us something to hang our hats on, something which lends us the feeling of being more here, more substantive, more valuable.  “I am a policeman,” “I am an artist,” “I am a cook,” “I am a musician,” “I am a mother” – these are all identifications.  Perhaps rather than these things we could learn to say, “I feel attuned to justice,” “I create things which I find beautiful,” “I enjoy preparing food,” “Music moves through me,” “I care for children I gave birth to.”  The reality of who we are and what we do doesn’t have to change, but defining ourselves by it, giving it and us a label, provides us a degree of comfort which covers the reality of our simplicity.

As my love of photography re-emerges, something around this identity as a photographer is falling away, and perhaps I may be able to go out and shoot some more. We’ll see what my index finger has to say about that, but I do feel somewhat washed clean, another step closer to just being, rather than being the one who is just doing.  A not-insubstantial distinction.

2 replies on “I Am Not a Photographer – An Exploration of Identifications”

i just saw a video interview of Ram Das and he said something very related to this post. He said, “It's better to be the soul than the role.” Amen.

FYI, I'm loving shooting again. It took me some time to get there, but at the moment I am driving across the US, visiting friends along the way, and am so enjoying the re-found capacity in my index (shutter) finger.

[…] my life, my next destination doesn’t necessarily just appear so magically.  A month or so ago, I wrote about doing my best to avoid identifications, being careful not to call myself a photographer, or a writer, or a Buddhist or really anything […]

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