the upside of putting your life in a picture frame

colored laundry, stucco wall

Didn’t have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
— John Mayer, 3×5

I have love affair with John Mayer. Lest you think I am a 15 year old girl, thanks to my hippy college friend Jordan, I knew about John Mayer before John Mayer was cool. I knew about John Mayer when Room for Squares was literal – he was quite square – and not mildly sarcastic.

My hard drive was full of live tracks downloaded from Napster.

Am I dating myself or does that make me seem cool?

I fear the former.

You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
It brought me back to life
You’ll be with me next time I go outside
NO more 3×5’s

But I digress, 3×5 was an important song to me off his first album. In college, I always had my nose behind a camera. I took pictures for my religious organizations, for my music groups, and documented a 12 day trip to Austria with 13 rolls of film.

I wanted to capture every moment with a picture. I wanted to fit the beauty of my experiences, the grace of my relationships in a 3×5.

I know that I didn’t immerse myself fully in my experiences; instead, I hid behind a viewfinder and a flash. I felt like I could hold on to each moment longer, grab more meaning, and connect more fully with a photograph than with real people and exploits. But I didn’t – I kept the moments at arm’s reach and never nuzzled up close to enjoy them for what they really were.

Today I finally overcame
tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame

Now, I’m back at it. I always have a camera with me. I’m constantly snapping pictures and clicking memories.

My sister in law even asked me to take the pictures for her wedding a couple of weeks ago. And that was when I realized a fundamental shift.

Instead of trying to use photos to substitute for experiences, I now use pictures to explore experiences.

The details I would have missed, the positions of people in relation to others, the shadows cast by beloved objects. Photos capture all these things but they never capture the complete experience.

Use a camera, or your pen, or your paintbrush, or your scissors, to explore the details and better understand your surroundings. Don’t try to capture life inside your art.

{ color laundry photograph by talis }

9 thoughts on “the upside of putting your life in a picture frame

  1. Hi, I especially like the last lines, “Instead of trying to use photos to substitute for experiences, I now use pictures to explore experiences.” and
    “better understand your surroundings. Don’t try to capture life inside your art.” So true, sometimes when we create we are isolated from the world pretending to understand everything.


  2. Alas, I only “found” JM about two years ago. AND my blog music player is not allowed to play in this country, due to licensing restrictions. Tx for reminding me to go get the music for real . . . Okay, so it was this pic that drew my eye in; LOVE the black & the details. One of my favourite subjects. Tx again.

  3. I LOVE this post. I have just spent some time looking at photos from years ago and thinking about my life then, and now.

    There are some years with lots of photos and some years with almost none. How I saw it at the time was that it was an either/or choice of being behind the camera or having the life experience without a camera in the way. I like that I have had some of both.

    Now, I love the thought of using pictures as a way to explore experiences, as lately I’ve begun to enjoy having a camera in hand again.

    All good stuff to think about, thanks!

  4. Interesting thoughts, art should reflect life & discuss it, say something about the world, it should never replace life. Once you try to capture life, you risk losing your discussion & end up not creating art at all. Thank you for this food for thought!
    On a side note, every time I hear or see John Mayer’s name I immediately think of the image of him wearing the lime green, Borat style one piece swimsuit (an image I wish I could purge from memory, whether it’s John Mayer or “Borat.” Not a good look for men) & of how one of my friends called him her (celebrity fantasy) boyfriend, over the objections of her (real, in the here & now) boyfriend.

  5. I love the way you describe the evolution of your thoughts over the years. I force myself to put down my camera every one in a while to fully immerse myself in whatever I’m doing. However, I find myself still wishing I had those photos to help me relive the experience in a much richer way.

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