When we talk here at WYG about using photography as a tool for coping with loss. I know there may be some people that immediately stop reading because they think these posts don’t apply to them. They think “I don’t have or know how to use a camera”, “I don’t know how to compose photos”, “I don’t know how to convey my emotions through images”. If that is you, it’s okay – keep reading! Even if every one of those statements is true, that doesn’t mean these posts aren’t for you. Using photography for exploring grief and emotions isn’t about taking perfect photos that will end up in a gallery, or even on Facebook. If you give these photography activities a go you’ll find that this is as much about the process of taking photos as it is about the photos themselves. You don’t need a fancy camera — any old point-and-shoot or cell phone camera will do the trick. You don’t need to know what you’re doing. You just need to be willing to try.
If you were feeling intimidated by our self-portrait post, don’t worry. Today we are suggesting a really simple photography activity that’s perfect for getting anyone started: take pictures of things that inspire you. That’s it! I know, this sounds so simple you may be questioning whether it even constitutes a meaningful activity. But it’s the timing and process of this activity can be profound when we are grieving. Really.
Why? Taking photos forces us to slow down. It forces us to carefully look at the world around us. It encourages us to pay attention to things that strike us, things we may otherwise rush past. So what, you’re saying? What does that have to do with grief? Let’s think about what grief does. When we grieve we often are in a tunnel, everything is a blur, we feel totally isolated from the world around us. We are consumed by our thoughts, our loneliness, guilt, and sorrow. Some days we are so focused inwardly on our pain that we barely notice anything outside of that pain. So this activity that sounds so simple, photographing inspiration, maybe more challenging than it seems. It challenges us to do some things that aren’t coming naturally to us while we are grieving: to slow down, to look for things other than our pain and loss, and to look outwardly to the world around us for inspiration. It may feel impossible to even think of what could be inspiring at a time when the world seems to have lost all meaning and beauty. That’s why it is challenging – because it will force you to go out and give it a shot.
Need some inspiration to photograph your inspiration? One of the first things that comes to mind is the inspiration we find in nature. So many inspiring images are of the natural world: a sunset, the ocean, trees, flowers, a perfect snowy day, a rainbow, and on and on. The natural world can be breathtaking and incredible. It has often time brought me comfort, small and large, and a search of the web will show how many grief and photography images are inspiration found in the natural world.
Live in the urban jungle? Inspiration isn’t just found in the natural world, it is found everywhere. I live in Baltimore, made famous by shows like Homicide and The Wire. There is a lot of loss here. A lot of art and music and creativity, but a lot to grieve as well. Drug addiction, murders, blocks of abandoned houses. If you follow us on Twitter you may know that one thing that inspires me is graffiti and murals. One man’s vandalism is another man’s art, or in my case another man’s inspiration. In some of the darkest corners of Baltimore, these images are a reminder that there is still hope; there is still color and creativity. There are still people fighting for beauty and love and change. When I am having a horrible day I will take the long way home, weaving through the city, stopping to take a photo of murals or graffiti that I pass. Stopping to take photos forces me to slow down and take them in. To remember that so many people suffer and that so many people find hope, one day at a time. To remind me that sometimes in the bleakest and darkest of places there are amazing things to be found.
Here is some of my inspiration (and in case you were still worrying about skill and quality and fancy cameras, many of these were taken on my phone). So take a look, subscribe to our blog if you want to continue getting our grief and photography challenges to your inbox, and then grab your camera and go. Share your photos of things that inspire you on our Facebook page or tweet them @whatsyourgrief
For more photography resources, check out the following articles: