“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.”
Reread that quote and sit with it for just a minute. Seriously.
Is it possible to live a life based on experiences? Based on living inside the images, not standing outside of the images as they pass us by?
How many of us can read this quote and say, “yes, I agree. And I have led my life in accordance to this belief”?
I have met the select few who can read this quote and make that statement. Such a soul is a rare breed and they do exist, I have met them, shared conversations with them, seen them live the literal translation of that quote. And used them as a compass when I’ve made the journey myself.
And beautiful still are the folks I’ve met and friends I have who understand the relevance of this statement and incorporate the premise whenever possible. Real life obligations may obstruct the implementation of this concept as a daily occurrence, but the core concept is still implemented and cherished.
What’s sad to me though, is that I have also met so many who read this quote and think, “what can I do to stop the images from passing me by? How can I possess these moments, these experiences? There is so much violence, crime and hate in the world, how can I travel into this unknown realm and see what is beyond my horizon? I’d rather just see the view from my recliner.”
For if we can not wander into this world and experience all its joys, sorrows, exhilaration and fear, what type of person are we? If we can not recognize and embrace the real, the emotions, the sheer joy of being in the world, how can we understand the true value of living?
I’m not sure how or why, but at a young age I chose the life of experiences. Maybe it was boredom or curiosity. Every experience, every moment, every person and every emotion culminate into who I am and are at the core of why I continue to be this way. And though I am a photographer and make images for a living (well, sometimes) one of the reasons I truly love the craft is that I get to experience what I’m documenting. Its an unrelenting curiosity that drives the photographer, the writer and the nomad. This insatiable need to see what mystery is waiting on the next street corner or what story will arise from the next taxi ride or journey on the Amtrak. Its a selfish act, really, and that’s a beautiful thing sometimes. I do this work and live this way, because at a young age, I chose to not live a life watching pictures pass me by, but to live a life of the person taking the pictures. I’m not an expert at it, by any means, but given a choice, I always opt for the experience.
People keep telling me how lucky I am to be living my life this way and I don’t quite know how to respond. This isn’t luck. Its a conscious decision. Well, I was lucky enough to be born in a privileged, first world country and to have a supportive family growing up that molded me into this person, but I don’t think that’s what they are referring to. Is this merely luck or is it a deliberate choice? And doesn’t every single person have the same choice to make? Granted, we all have different circumstances and come from different perspectives, and not everyone is cut out for experiencing the images, but don’t we all make a choice at some point in time? Don’t we make that choice every day?
Can we choose to reverse this trend of watching the images pass us by? Can we not take a powerful and meaningful step in a direction that will lead us away from the passive world we may have created and dive into our images? Can we not all become the photographer, the storyteller or the adventurer? In our own, personalized and independent way?