A few days ago I had a very enlightening conversation with my friend Vlad that has ultimately led onto the creation of this post. We were discussing Vlad’s video, and how he finds the time waiting at airports a form of mental adjustment in which he is able to prepare himself for what lies ahead.
So often do I find that over the hours or days that I spend traveling some place to make photographs, there seems to be a mental transition of sorts that happens for me too. I feel it’s a requirement of the creative process, almost a meditative time. Let me explain a little better.
When I first leave home, I’m usually still wrapped up very much in my home life. Friends, family, Edinburgh the town I live in, is my environment. I’m a city dweller. So while I am at home, my mind is often turned to the day to day living of being in a small city. If I were to teleport immediately to some remote landscape, I think I would find myself emotionally disorientated. I seem to need to have the journey time between home and location in which to let go of my city life, and slowly prepare, and move into the life I have while in a wilderness location.
There is a need, certainly for me, to have this time, to be able to transfer from one environment to another. Far off places, and perhaps friends who live there, are but an abstract notion when they are not immediately in my present day to day life. I have to file them away as some extension of me, and it takes me a while to step into the life of the people I know in these far off places. It also takes me a while to forget about my city life, to be able to fully let go.
There needs to be this transference stage. It’s vital to have it, so that I’m emotionally ready and prepared to accept the landscapes I photograph.
Now imagine a world where distances are becoming smaller and things are becoming more immediate. Do you think these remote landscapes would be just as appealing to us if we could get there in a very short space of time? I don’t think they would. We wouldn’t have the appreciation for them as we wouldn’t have had the settling in time, that a plane ride gives us. That time to reflect, to consider where we are going. A plane ride is forced meditation. It is a vital part of the process where we can let our minds float freely, allowing things to go and for our aspirations and anticipations of the future, to come to us. I think it’s prep time, for my creativity.
This subject leads on rather neatly to the personal issues I have with what I do for a living now. Every few weeks I am away somewhere in the world. It can be a disorientating thing to be doing on a frequent basis, because it always takes me time to settle back into my Edinburgh life when I’m home, and then there is the mental and emotional demands of preparing myself for a workshop or photo tour somewhere that will require maybe a week or so of my time. I can only describe it as relocation-lag. Where it takes a while for my mind and spirit to settle into a different environment.
I’m just curious how this all affects the creative process? How do you see it affecting you? Does it take time for you to settle into a new environment before you can make images, or do you find that the newness is what inspires you to make images? Have you considered that the plane ride for a few hours, is perhaps like a meditative requirement, something that needs to be done, in order to prepare your mind for what is to come?
I think this is also why I need to have space between my shooting sessions and the post-editing. I need time to be able to absorb what it was I felt and took in while in a remote landscape. I can’t be objective about it, or give the work the attention it deserves, if I come home and immediately start to edit it. I’m almost trying to complete the work, before my mind has even reached its own conclusion of the emotions and events that I’m still absorbing.
If I were to edit soon after the shoot, I feel the edits would be a rushed response, and would show little care for just what it is, that I’m still absorbing.
Traveling gives us time, and with that time, we gain insight. Travel also gives us distance, and with this distance, we gain a different kind of insight. Both contribute to the creative process in different ways. We should embrace them, because they are part of the creative journey and have impact on what it is we do and how we reach a creative conclusion.