It's hard to believe that my time in India is over. Three months flew by like a three day holiday weekend, and now I find myself sitting on the beach in Sri Lanka, a much welcome reprieve from the honking, noise, dirt, and madness that is India. I had originally drafted a really long post to reflect on my time there, but after a while, I realized that my lessons learned there were pretty simple.
I set off with the goal of being an NGO commercial photographer, and quickly realized that actually, I had no desire to do that after all. I'm not wired for commercial photography. And I realized my engineering skills will be way more effective/impactful in the NGO realm. I've seen my photographic tendencies drift significantly towards a couple things: 1) Adventure 2) Remote and wild places 3) Fine art prints 4) Documentary work.
I've always had a strong desire to get to remote places, for adventure in the frontier, and a fascination with the people that live on the fringes of society. And I've recently discovered how much I love seeing physical hard prints of my work that I can hold in my hand. It was the increased interest in documentary work that really developed in India though. I was so frustrated with photography in India. After awhile, I just hated the sight of a camera. I finally figured out why: it has to do with a sense of accomplishment. See, as an engineer, I love having a project to work on. Something with a deliverable, that I can then derive a set of steps to solve the problem and accomplish the task. And I got absolutely NOTHING done in India. It's not just doing things to do things, but really working towards a finished product. Time after time, projects never panned out in India. They would fall apart, I couldn't get started, or I'd get called off to go somewhere else. And it was incredibly demotivating for me.
So this summer, my plans are simple. I've got a list of personal photo projects that I'm going to go do. I'll work through them until they are complete. If I need to, I'll take a break and go find a beach or just travel and resume when I can. Some projects are extreme, and I'm going to want a little time off after I finish most likely. But I'm going to focus my traveling this way for now, for the purpose of completing the projects only. I'm not going to share any of my work on a given project until the project is complete. This blog has mainly been a travel blog since I started, but I don't want to be a travel blogger. My photography interests are different than that.
I've decided that because of this, and some practical issues as well, I'm setting the blog aside for the summer, and I'm selling my digital cameras for film. As a photographer, I've had a soft spot for film ever since I saw that single roll of slides I shot on my trip to Pakistan sitting on the light table. Digital has been a necessity because it was so convenient. I love film. I love the process, the way it forces me to slow down, to be more selective. I love having to wait until I can see the images, because it helps me stay in the moment. I love the way it looks and the way it feels. And I LOVE darkroom prints.
The practical side is that India is a bit of an anomaly in that wifi is (mostly) readily available. The places I'm planning to focus on with my photography, have no wifi. Or even electricity. I couldn't continue to share photos at the rate I have been in India even if I wanted to. I need the fully manual operation certain film cameras offer so I can get to places high in the mountains or out on the plains for days (maybe weeks) that have no electricity and still shoot pictures. I could carry a ton of batteries (big money) or a solar panel I guess (lots of weight and I'm only one man), but I'm just going to simplify the process and shoot what I love. I'll get the images processed and finished and then you'll see the results. But more importantly, I just flat out enjoy film and I need the space to just create work that satisfies me.
So that's really all I need to say at this time about what I learned in India. I had a lot more stuff in the original draft of this post, but I just decided it's not really the root of the issue. I'm a total over achiever I guess, but I hate having nothing to do. Having a project focuses me, and it really gets my creative muscle working. It comes from the problem solving skills I had to develop as an engineer. I get stagnant with nothing to work towards. And as with any art, you really have to do what satisfies you creatively and forget about the rest, so film it is.
I've really appreciated the support you all have shown in the last few months on the blog. There will be plenty of stories and photos coming, but it will take some time to create those. I'm not going to promise that the photos are going to be iconic, or even good, but they will be my best and from the heart. So hang on for a few months. I'll be back before you know it with a whole slew of photos and stories to share!
I'll leave the website up with a selection of my favorite images from my travel so far. Also, I'll be sharing some Instagram snaps from my phone whenever I get wifi access if I can. Make sure you add me (@stturn) if you haven't already, as that will be my main travel update outlet for the summer.
Have a great summer. See you soon!