Sunday, February 24, 2013

Much to Consider

Recently I find myself putting a lot of thought into my photography. Certainly more than I put into it years or decades ago (which shows in the quality of the images), but also more now than even a few months ago. It's probably related to the extra thought that's going into my life.
  • I'm considering both the subject and the subject matter of my photos.
  • I'm working to discover - through my photography - what's important in my worldview.
  • I'm struggling to find balance between internal and external approval. I focus on the images and visions I like, tell myself that external opinions are less important, but experience disappointment when I don't receive approval.
  • I spend much more time post-processing images, searching for the right combination of composition, light, cropping, etc.
I guess the question for me comes down to this: Why do I take photographs?

There should be an easy answer to that question, and I've given easy-cliche-answers, like, "It's my creative outlet." But there has to be more to it than that. I take photos because it's a way to express myself. But that begs another question. Why am I not able to express myself in other ways? Or, What am I trying to express through photography that I'm unable to express in other ways?

Maybe my lack of a consistent voice, and frequent/prolonged periods of no more than a whisper, has limited my expression options. Photography then may have become more frequently chosen because other options are more limited. But that leads me back to, "What am I trying to express?" And for that I have no answer.

I'm unable to express the school counselor in me. My years spent in Wendell allowed me to express on a daily basis my caring for students and teachers. I don't have that option now. But photography doesn't seem like a good fit to fill that need.

I express my professional identity now through being an adjunct professor. (I don't know if adjuncting is a real word or not.) It's a different role than I've had before, but it's an enjoyable change. I taught some classes while I was a school counselor, but I'm teaching more often and different courses now. It feels ... good, satisfying, encouraging, to be asked to teach new classes. I think it means the NNU faculty trusts my ability to learn new topics and to clearly disseminate information to graduate students.

So photography isn't about my professional identity.

I express my love for family and friends and don't need photography to do that.

The only need I can think of that isn't being met is my personal identity, maybe even my value and my worth.

Other than what I do and who I'm related to, who am I? I've been struggling with this question for a long, long time. The question itself can be interesting.
"Who are you?" 
"I'm Chris McNaught."

Technically I've answered the question with my name, not "who" I am. But most of the time when people ask, they're really asking, "What's your name?"

"What do you do?"
"I'm a school counselor and an adjunct professor?"

The question asks about my activities, but I start my answer with "I am." That seems to be less about what I'm doing and more about who I am. But a school counselor is not who I am, it's something I do/did. 

I could answer with my life roles: I'm a son, brother, uncle, friend.
I could answer with non-professional activities: I'm a writer, golfer, photographer.
I could answer with beliefs: I'm a Christian, a conservative, a minimalist.
But do any of those really answer who I am? Maybe the sum of all these answers is the true answer.

"Who are you?"
"Who am I?"
"Yes, who are you?"

"I don't know."

Since I don't know, maybe I'm trying to discover and express my identity through my photography. If that's true, there are implications about  the nature of my photography and the direction of my creativity. But those things will have to wait for another day.


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