See me… Feel me…

Panorama 22a 20 10 15

I’ve not intentionally turned my back on this blog. I just haven’t felt I’ve had anything to add to it that has much of a story attached. It’s also been a year rather dominated by my sports photography work, which isn’t the type of material I’ll be posting here, of course. You’ll find much of that here.

I’ve only blogged here once since I was diagnosed with a degenerative sight condition, earlier this year. When I shared that news, I said that I’d try not mention it again in the blog. My sight hasn’t begun to fail me yet, but I’ve realised it isn’t as simple as that. The knowledge that it is going to do so at some point has really affected my landscape photography. Only landscape? Not photography generally? Well, the sports work is a bit specialised – and while doing it, I only really shoot what happens in front of me. My other contracts are similar: go in, make a record of an event, a place, people, etc, leave, process the work; job done. Mostly.

For me, however, landscape photography is different. It’s not just about about recording what I saw, but about trying to convey in those photos something of what I felt about what I saw. That’s integral to it. That means it goes well beyond where I was at the time, and encompasses who I was at the time, and what I took away with me, in the form of memories, emotions and experiences.

It wasn’t long after I received my sight diagnosis that an evil little demon began sitting on my shoulder as I looked through my camera viewfinder. It whispered to me “Supposing this is the last time you ever see this?” Yes – supposing it was? Would that change how I shot the scene before me? Would it change what I shot? I think I’ve decided the answer to those things is generally “no”, but the questions didn’t stop there.

My immediate, gut reaction was that I’d better get out there and photograph a load of stuff to the best of my ability, because I might not be able to do it for much longer. However, the more rational part of me pointed out an illogical aspect of that. If I lose my sight, what will my relationship be with my past body of photography? I’ll not be able to see it. I’ll probably not be able to add to it in any sensible sense. So why run about like the proverbial headless chicken, adding to my galleries etc?

I’ve mulled long and hard over this. The easy part to resolve is that I don’t only do this stuff for myself, of course. I’m blessed with friends, customers and others who enjoy my work, and who want to see more. The hard part is that I definitely do do a lot of this for myself. However, as I alluded to in the opening part of this blog, I don’t necessarily do it just to record what I saw; a big part is about recording what I saw so that I can recall how I felt about what I saw. And increasingly, I seem to have a need to imprint those recollections and emotions in my mind ever move vividly, so that come the day I can see no more, I can draw from them still.

I was initially comforted when I was told my sight condition was likely to start affecting me “in the next two to twenty years”. The initial hope was, of course, that it would be nearer the twenty. But supposing it isn’t? Wouldn’t I regret not venturing out with my camera on a sunny day to see the sunlight play on the most vivid autumn colours for many years, and returning home deeply at peace? That happened to me a few days before penning this piece, by the way. And yes, no regrets – I went out and shot 1,100 frames that day. Had I not, how many times in future would I kick myself for the shots I missed? Not because of what I saw at the time, but because of how it made me feel.

Even as I was writing this, the late Jim Morrison of the Doors gave me a great quote. In a spoken part of “The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” he says:

“No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.”

By the way, I’ve long believed we don’t find this stuff when we need it – it finds us. For that piece to come up as I was writing this adds further to that belief!

I think I’d feel much the same if I faced deafness. I don’t make music, but I listen to a great deal, and never usually have a problem titling my blogs with an apposite track title etc. If I was told I was going deaf, I think I’d spend even more time listening to stuff now.

So, yes, at the moment, my reaction to the possibility of blindness probably is causing me to take more photos than usual, but on the grounds of the emotion from the shot, and less so for their visual impact, maybe.

Tommy, at the end of the Who’s masterful rock opera says it well. “See me…Feel me….”

About tomsprints

I am a Masters athlete and freelance photographer living in Kent, in Great Britain. I'm a sprinter. As well as competing, my camera and I work regularly for the British Masters Athletics Federation and the European and World Masters Athletics organisations. For pleasure, I'm (principally) a landscape photographer. I have been blessed with the chance of spending quite a lot of time in the European Alps in the last 30 years. My web site is a vehicle for a my photographic work, and is at http://www.tomphillipsphotos.co.uk I run two blogs. One is about what it's like to be an older athlete ( http://tomsprints.wordpress.com ) and the other is basically about my photography ( https://ablogscape.wordpress.com ), although they often overlap.
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