Life Through the Lens

27 Dec Life Through The Lens

Everything we do is life. Our attitude towards our smallest actions is a reflection of our attitude towards life as a whole, just as a fractal pattern can be scaled seamlessly from being a part that becomes the whole and the whole becomes the part, ad infinitum. Among other things, I do a lot of photography, it is a part of me, of who I am, and just as the fractal pattern is repeated on all levels, the way I do photography is not separate from the big picture of life. Rather it is a condensed description of it.

I am a photographer. These days I prefer to shoot open landscapes and yoga, often both at once with the intention of uniting the subject with the surroundings rather than separating the body from a background. When I arrive to a scene I am immediately faced with the challenge of position. I must choose a point of view and an angle that I feel will result in contentment. Just as in life I can approach any given situation from any infinite number of angles and can only rely on an idea of what would be the most satisfying result depending on my intentions. There is no guarantee I will choose the best one, but with the directions of intent I can set a path. Sometimes I will spend a lot of time experimenting and testing different angels because I am uncertain and curious about what I can make with it, other times I have a clear idea and know exactly where and how to set up. From here I choose my framing, something I tend to think of as the telling of a story. There is no way I will be able to include everything I see at once and even if I did it would be so much information that the point of the story might get lost. The frame is about perspective, how much to include and what to cut out. Each situation will have its own preference, sometimes the noise around us needs to be left out so we can isolate our frame of mind to what is interesting right there and then. At other occasions we might feel like zooming out and get a wider perspective of things where the context can aid our understanding of the where, what and why’s. I found in my earlier work that I stuck with the same lens for periods of time, preferring and assuming I wanted to see things in a certain way. These days I never leave for a shoot without an array of lenses in case I feel the need to change perspective. In the end I often end up trying them out and even if I don’t I take comfort in having the possibility to adapt.

Once frame of mind and perspective are set I need to focus on what goes on inside them. By changing the aperture of the lens I can choose to flood my sensor with light and give the image a narrow depth of field. The result is focus on the here and now, the immediate and the object will stand clear against a background of blur. Excessive information will disappear but I also cannot see what lies ahead. In the opposite scenario the aperture is set tighter, forcing all information through a more narrow opening and what lies in the distance starts to take shape. Again, certain situations call for an isolated experience while others might favor some clarity down the line and we choose our approach also here.

I like to think of photography as the opportunity to capture light and reflect it. Since light is constantly bouncing around being busy making things visible, the aspect of time plays a major role in the process of capturing it. Cameras today are so amazingly fast they can freeze moments that we are not able to comprehend with our eyes. The captures become instant, like some of our memories, clear to the point that they are almost symbolic. At the other side of the spectrum I can create what the eye does not see by leaving the shutter open and allow light to stick to the sensor for minutes, even hours sometimes, resulting in images that collect the passing of time and blend it together. Depending on how we calibrate our attention span and patience, things will either make us draw conclusions from an ephemeral impression that can perhaps be seen as symbolic, or we let go of assumption and accept the constant change that goes on, also without our interference.

When taking a picture, as well as in living my life, these are the factors I consider and the only difference between them is that in the former the outcome and result is most often more direct and apparent. In the end everything comes down to choice. Life is an opportunity to make choices. Then we can go on to question purpose, meaning and free will, but let us save that discussion for next time.

By Carl Johan Kimell