For many years, people have done photography as a hobby–a way to preserve their mental health so to speak in a way that keeps them sane due to its almost rhythmic movements and thought process involved. In today’s world, there are more photographers than ever who have decided to pick up a camera or their phone due to how many free educational websites (like this one) and more there are online. So for many people photography is a way to find an escape from everyday stresses, the caustic nature of social media, and a way to creatively express oneself in order to purge negativities from our mind and body. Indeed, photography is fantastic for your mental health.
Photography as a Form of Meditation
Photography, when done as a hobby, has a form of careful meditation involved. Personally speaking, I’ve been meditating for the better part of 16 years now and I’ve studied numerous different types. Vanilla meditation–which is what I like to call the most commercialized form of the art, doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, it can require some sort of necessary movements and almost putting oneself into a trance-like state.
Sound familiar? Let me explain:
- Street Photographers have highly tuned focus into what they’re doing.
- Landscape photographers are also highly tuned and always thinking about how the light is changing
- Portrait photographers try to find a way to create a moment that does justice to someone
- Food photographers contemplate all the different ways that they can make a dish look incredible
- Sports photographers are infatuated with finding and capturing the moments before they happen
- Concert photographers live for the thrill of getting the greatest expressions out of musicians
- Wildlife photographers slave away to get up early in the morning and catch the early light to get animals at their best
- Documentary and photojournalists are motivated with the intent of telling a story to change a little part of the world.
Notice something in all this? It’s a major mental task coupled with little things which make the mind more in tune with what’s going on. Whether it’s changing a dial, advancing a piece of film, figuring out development times in a dark room, or even getting a graduated ND filter on at just the right time a photographer is focusing and meditating.
Photography as a Form of Therapy
In my history of running this website, I’ve interviewed a number of fantastic photographers who have gone about their lives figuring out ways to make the art form therapeutic. For some it started purely with taking walks and wanting to take pictures. For others, it became something for them to do as an escape to keep themselves sane from a stressful job. But for many photographers out there, the art form of photography has really, truly been a therapeutic one.
So how can photography be therapeutic? Well, that delves deeper into the two main types of photography which I like to call creating and capturing. Some photographers love to capture the moment; these are typically street photographers, landscape photographers to an extent, documentary, and photojournalists. These photographers don’t have a major involvement in what they’re taking a photo of. Instead, they’re simply documenting it.
Other photographers on the other hand, create. These photographers are portrait, food, surreal, and conceptual photographers. These photographers have an active part of what is being captured and often give directions, move things that wouldn’t otherwise move, etc.
For those that capture a moment, there is a thrill of going out there, looking at scenes the way that they are and clicking the shutter when that little bit of adrenaline tells you that you should. And if you get the moment, then you get it. If you don’t you move on or go tell yourself how terrible you are. With creating though, a photographer puts lots of effort into the scene before they even take a photo. This is an art that is becoming lost of the mainstream as marketing and forums everywhere emphasize capturing a moment. But the photographers that truly create moments before they are captured are arguably more creative.
One thing is common within all these folks: they’re all doing this (if not for a living) as a therapeutic act.
Photography as a Social Activity
Lastly, I’d love to talk about something that everyone should get into if they haven’t already: and that’s photography as a social activity. Photowalks, workshops, meeting with collectives, etc is a social activity that lets you be surrounded by other like minded photographers. You get to learn from one another and if someone is brave enough to go to a meeting you’ll see that all the trolling on the internet simply goes away because people actually care and aren’t protected by an avatar of some sort.
The experience of simply being social in person is one that gets all photographers going in one way or another. Both introverts and extroverts can come together and share their ideas and works in conversations and in a way that facilitates how we all simply can do better. Once we receive that feedback, we become better photographers.
And when we become better, we produce better work–all through just being social with others.