The Soulful Side of Photography 

“My wildlife photography equipment starts with my heart for the love of these beautiful animals. It continues with my head to learn about them. It is enhanced by my eyes for seeing their magnificance. My tool kit is completed with some mechanical items.” ~Carolyn E. Wright

Carolyn Wright’s words are provocative ones. How easy it is to become distracted by all the digital hype out there about hardware! My focus today is on the soulful side of photography; on photography’s underside, its soft side that also happens to be our insides.

Think about it

A soulful singer combines flowing melodies and poignant lyrics to touch us. A soulful writer tantalizes us with verbal strings of intensely felt emotions. A soulful musician is one who breathes life into their notes in a way that makes listeners feel the river flowing through them. All of them take us into a world of inspiration and lift our consciousness.

Technology cannot do that

Our photographic hardware is not what gets us there. Even the most technically proficient among us do not automatically possess soulfulness. It does not rise up from a rote learning process. In other words, a saxophone in the wrong hands does little for us even though their notes may be bold ones.

I think about these things when I pick up a copy of almost any industry publication – each one bent, as they are, on trying to one-up the next one in digital-speak.

The soulful artist is driven to do what they do for more lofty reasons. They are driven. They live and breathe their creative inclinations. They often inhabit stratas of intense aloneness. They lay sleepless at night listening to the blood pulsating through their veins simply because they live in a feeling state where they have learned to feel everything. They notice everything. They pick up on rhythms and nuances, and patterns, that escape others. They seek kindred spirits to connect with and, if none, then so be it.

A Shadow in Noon Day Sun

The moods they create mirror their persona and reflect how they live, how they think. Their subjects are self-revealing. They are at once the story and story-teller and the universe in which it all unfolds.

They work and kneed and wrestle and agonize until their authentic self emerges victoriously in some form of artful communication. Only then do they put wings to a song or to words, or click the shutter button.

Creativity requires a lot from us

The next time you pick up that camera think about these things. Ask yourself why are you picking it up in the first place. Is yours a long view? Is what you are doing emotionally self-sustaining?

Does it allow you to communicate and connect with others in ever-richer and more meaningful ways? Does it inspire you to keep learning and growing? Does it make you more reflective about the world around you? More passionate?

These are the things that count. It is not the camera that you use, it is the experience of utter groundedness that results.

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