"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well." ~ Diane Ackerman
Have you ever looked at old photographs of your ancestors and wondered what their life was like? Imagine one day, someone gazing over your photos and wondering what your life was like in "your time." What impressions do you think people would have of you and your existence? Would you be thought of as happy, positive, peaceful, helpful, family oriented, artistic, creative, stylish, funny, or outgoing? Creatively, the purpose of a photo or painting is not just about the image before you, but the feeling and impression it leaves on the person while they are looking at it… the entire width of the image.
We've often heard the expression, "a picture speaks a thousand words." Photographs, drawings, paintings, or creative art pieces can capture the essence of our life and create timeless visions. Those inspired images never age, at no time change, and remain to capture the very moment we existed. Where would world history be without visual confirmation? In the very second an image is complete, our existence is confirmed. Whether our emotions are expressed artistically on paper or through a photograph we are imprinting an impact. At the end of our life, there is a tangible timeless effigy, a lasting impression that existed and was created to show how we celebrated our life. Our imagery, creations, and pictorial actions will speak louder than words.
Oftentimes, we don't think about celebrating our life through imagery. We envision and celebrate our life through words, money, people, shopping, and other externals, but we don't commemorate our internal joy through photographs. Gratitude is a main ingredient to finding joy in our life and appreciating a photo of ourselves is the first step to creating this joy. We are very critical of ourselves when we look in the mirror or at a photograph of ourselves, yet we are less critical of others. Our happiness must come from within and using photography as a vehicle to express ourselves is a unique opportunity in this century, especially with the advancement of technology. It's an amazing time in our lives to live with all the wonderful camera equipment, smart phones, and camcorders around us. Are we fully using this technology to our advantage? Many of us do like to take pictures of ourselves when we're feeling artistic, or feel we look good, but rarely do we tell the story of our lives on a more frequent basis through pictures. We often complain or procrastinate to others about having our picture taken. We make up a hundred reasons and excuses why we don't want our photo taken, e.g., we're not feeling well, we look terrible, our hair is not fixed, or we're not wearing the right outfit, etc. We can all probably relate to the one relative or friend who never wants their picture taken! Their resistance isn't much fun and it doesn't honor our own joy when they continually refuse to interact with us. We usually move on to someone who is more apt to strike a pose, crack a smile, make a silly face, have a little fun, and just enjoy our time together while we're still on this earth.
Celebrating our lives through pictures is living within the millisecond of our being, regardless of your external circumstances. Taking photographs is the perfect way to experience and celebrate the now in our lives. Technology and social media sites are extremely popular because we are able to celebrate the joy in our lives and connect with other people "now"… within seconds. We no longer have to wait a week to have our pictures developed, then wait another week for relatives to receive them, and then another week to get a response back. Visualizing photos is as important as hearing music is to the soul. Our senses give us the stimulation we need to bring us joy. Technology has rapidly advanced our means of celebration to a level that has never been seen before in this world. Within minutes we are able to give detailed description of our photographs to someone thousands of miles away. If we could now only enjoy the moments of photography and incorporate it into our lives without fear of what others will think. Who cares, really?! Enjoy this life! Bask in the opportunity that people didn't have 100 years ago or even 20 years ago! Digital cameras and camcorders are everywhere, but we're not wanting to have our photo taken?!
My best friend never wanted to have her picture taken. She hated cameras and made every effort to hide or block her face. She would never pose for me and wouldn't take one picture without it being a big ordeal. This cat and mouse photo game went on for years and I found it forever frustrating. One day on a visit to see her, I asked if I could take her picture on my new phone for my contacts. I told her, "This way when you call me your picture will come up." For some strange reason, that particular day, she stood there and posed for me with the biggest smile on her face and she let me take the picture. Even after our visit, I thought to myself, "That was weird, she didn't give me a hard time." Three weeks later, she unexpectedly passed away and that same photo, was the last picture taken of her life. Today, that same photo is on my desk. That photo signifies a vital part of someone's life and anyone looking at that photo would have no idea of the story behind it and it's important to tell her story.
Perhaps we can all think deeper into the meaning of our lives and what our photographs have shown us thus far. What legacy of imagery have we collected in our lifetime? What will the photos we leave behind say about our lives? Will there be pictures of special moments and holidays that we weren't in the photos because we didn't want our picture taken? Will there be very few photos of us or lots of photos of us blocking our face? We can't hold back if we want to free ourselves to live fully as the person we are today… whole beings who have imperfections just like everyone else. A young man asked his mother for ten pictures that his school needed for his graduation. She had a hard time finding good pictures of him growing up through the earlier years. The son asked why he didn't have many pictures. She reminded him that every time she wanted to take a picture of him he would get mad and say he didn't want his picture taken or would hide his face. Now that the son is older, more mature, and over his picture phobia, he felt sad there wasn't many pictures to choose from when he needed them for graduation. He said, "I'm glad I don't do that anymore."
A professional photographer will take hundreds of pictures during a photo shoot and only a limited number will be considered good to the client. A photo that is selected for the front cover of a magazine is selected from numerous shots. Not all of the photos taken are of publishing quality and even models take bad pictures. We are very critical of our own photos, but we can reverse the psychology and create stories regardless of how we look. Not many of us would take a photo of us at our worst moments. Recently, a photographer won a Pulitzer prize award for a series of photos he took that told the story of a Marine who suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and were taken during this Marine's darkest hours. For us, it is important to remember we are creating historical moments and records of our life to pass down to our loved ones. When we're gone, they won't care if you didn't pose just right, what you were wearing that day, or if your hair wasn't styled perfectly.
The camera is a tool we can use to create lasting images that will provide joy for years to come. It's important to remember, we are not posing for front covers of magazines and it's unlikely that our pictures will make it up on a billboard sign. So relax. It's just a picture! Very rarely will we ever be completely satisfied with a picture taken of us. We lend ourselves to harsh judgement instead of enjoying the moment without criticism. Most of us will take several photos before we feel it is even worthy to publish on a social media site! We all go through our moments when we are not satisfied with our photos. We have no idea when we refuse to participate in a brief photo opportunity that it could be one of the most important pictures of our life. When we look at the meaning of photographs in a different perspective, photos become a lot more fun and meaningful. When we can interpret our own photos in the same light as we do old photos of other people, and with the same inquisition, we can begin to tell a wonderful story of how we lived our own lives on this earth.
Living in the moment through photos captures a point in time (to the second) that no one can ever change. We are creating a historical moments of life legacy. Some of the best photographs in history were taken at inexpandable moments, with unsuspected planning, and without excuses. Celebrating our lives in front of a camera lens is not always easy, unless you're vain, egotistical, and considered a camera hog. For many of us, it's hard to relax and be ourselves when we know a camera lens is following our every move. But, when we forget about the camera and become uninhibited, that's when the magic of history will happen!
Many genealogists can verify the fact that there is always one family member who is always missing in old photographs or there is the family member who has no known photos. It's sad when there is no visual record of a person's life. Another problem is when you never see one particular person in photographs because they were always the one taking all the pictures. There are people who love taking pictures of everyone else, but would rather not be in the photos themselves. It doesn't occur to them at the time that someone someday would want to see them in the picture, too. At the end of the day or life, when we look back over our photos, we simply want to see memories. We want to smile, laugh, and reminisce about the joy we had around us in our lifetime and that can be accomplished through photos. We want that tangible piece of evidence in our hands that we can always refer back to that links to our loved ones. A photo is also an opportunity for us to leave behind a memory for others to look back on in fondness and learn about who we were.
We often look at images of people in books, paintings, and photography, wishing we could leave behind a legacy like other people have lived or are living today. We spend a lot of time wishing and hoping, but not acting or creating. We tell ourselves, when I get skinnier, get in better shape, my hair looks better, my clothes fit better, or when I feel better, then I'll take pictures of myself. Waiting till we look or feel "better" is not living in the moment. Frankly, it's not living at all, it's living in a world of procrastination while the world passes us by. We spend so much wasted time wishing and waiting, but not acting or creating. When we look at images of other people, we simply want the joy and serenity their pictures seem to possess. We want what we visualize in on television, magazines, beautiful artwork, or photography. We wish we had what they have, and if we did, then we too could be joyous in life. We are complimentary of other people, but we are harsh and critical about our own images. When we waste time wishing for better physical attributes or sunnier weather till we take a picture we will miss the entire greater life picture… living now… today.
Other people create joyous moments by just getting out there and making it happen, regardless of any internal or external barrier. They let themselves go, they don't listen to negative self-talk, they don't doubt their intentions, or let anything hold them back. Celebrating life through pictures is about enjoying the present moment, living in the "now," and creating lasting memories, not regrets. So, what if a picture isn't all that you wanted it to be?! You still captured a moment that will never happen again! We all laugh at each others spontaneous moments of funny pictures. That's what makes life in pictures fun, as well. Don't worry about what other people will think, say, or do. Living for today and living in the moment will be reflected through our photographs… that is the celebration.
We must not let life pass us by and remember that the "tomorrows" are just too late. It's always a different experience when we are the ones in front of the wide-angle lens of a camera and putting ourselves out there for the world to see. But, living life in that manner can be quite a humbling experience and the real joy is when we can let go of all our inhibitions. We always think we need to wait for that perfect moment when we feel our best to take a picture, but the bottom line is… this is our best life now. Waiting for perfection is like being robbed everyday… it steals time. Great moments don't wait for perfection, they just happen. The perfect moment is the one we have before us and this day will never come again. In order to get past all of our insecurities, inhibitions, and self-doubts, we need to shoot through life like a photographer… by going out in the world and just capturing moments with a purpose and living until the purpose is fulfilled.
We must not let our flaws or imperfections hold us back from enjoying our lives! We all have flaws! We cannot let it steal our joy. Now is the perfect moment. This is who we are today. Life is a personal celebration that begins with gratitude and before this life is over we should count our blessings each day. Gratitude will bring us the joy we have been searching for in life. Using a camera can aid us in many different ways, by recording the changes in ourselves, overcoming insecurity issues, and self-growth. And, perhaps to also help another person achieve the same one day when they look at your photos; and they think what an interesting and courageous human being you were. Every day we have a chance to create moments and there are certain people around us who make lasting impressions on us because they celebrate life. Those are the people we want to be around because they bring out the best in us. They are magnets of positive energy. If we stop to imagine, who and how we are capable of inspiring others, the focus on all our insecurities will cease to exist because now the focus is on how we can inspire others in our lifetime.
Have you ever looked at a photo of one of your ancestors and you don't really know anything about that person or their life? What if that photo is you someday in someone else's hands? Famous author Anais Nin once said, "I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy." Each day before us is a clean page, a blank sheet of photo paper, and what we create on that page is up to us. If we let people see who we were are on the inside and not just the surface, the future years will reflect our legacy that we lived our lives to the fullest. That is the greatest gift we can ever give back to our friends, family, and descendents, is for them to see the joy in our face in photos. There is a wide area of our lives that is waiting to be explored and it's important that we take the time to just enjoy life, even when things are not always perfect.
"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'" ~ Erma Bombeck