The Need for Photo Detoxing

Kodak T-Max 3200

It’s hard not to get swept up in the daily avalanche of images, from Facebook feeds and Twitter streams to Instagram and wherever else. More images are uploaded by the day. We, as a society, are more visually oriented now than at any point in our history. As a photographer, I’m particularly attuned to visuals in that I see photographs happen that I’m not always ready for, and I come across them everywhere online. There are times, however, when I find that I need to not look at nor take photographs. Hypersatuation can affect how I look at and receive an image, in the way that food advertisements are much less appetizing after I’ve eaten.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Astropad for Apple iPad (5 of 9)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 3.5

There can be too much of a good thing, no matter how much you may enjoy it, and with the daily deluge of images, I find that there is, more often than not, far too much of a good thing. It’s led me to not only take some breaks, but also to trim my social feeds as I was following way more people than was actually necessary. On Instagram, for instance, I was following roughly 600 people, but my feed did not comprise 600 different photographers. Perhaps there’s some algorithmic trickery at play, but I realized, too, that I was following more than just photographers. Instagram is for everyone, but I wanted a feed of just photographers. So, I trimmed 400 people, which is considerable. While I can’t necessarily determine who shows up, I can control the accounts that I follow.

It goes beyond just cutting down who I follow online. There’ll be a couple of days when I’ll leave my camera at home. It’s not as anxiety-inducing as it used to be, but it’s a conscious choice to force myself out from behind the lens so that I can be more of a participant than an observer. My inclination is almost always to observe because I find that to be much more interesting. I’ll move to the outskirts of an event or a party because I often prefer experiencing something that way than actively being a part of it. The photographs are a record of my experience, though in a roundabout they’re evidence of my participation, too.

By taking time away from the camera and from photographs, my visual mind can rest, which is becoming increasingly necessary. This kind of detoxing doesn’t have a set length, usually just a few days of going off the grid, so to speak, as best I can. It’s something worth trying if you haven’t already. Take a couple of days to tune out. Engage with other art forms. If you have the observer tendency like I do, leave the camera at home the next time you have a thing to go to. Be present. When you pick up the camera again, you’ll be all the better for it.