Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it… OK, I have to say it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. There, I’ve said it. It’s true though.
I look back on my week in Berlin back in September last year and I can recall so many different buildings, U-Bahn stations and so on that I could have taken advantage of if I’d just discovered this interest in photography a little earlier. If only I had my Sony RX100 back then, slotted into my bag or my jacket pocket.
Thinking about that city break brings up a lot of painful memories. Well, maybe ‘painful’ isn’t the right word. It was more frustration and mental exhaustion than physical pain. That isn’t because I dislike Berlin, far from it! I absolutely love the place and I’ll definitely go back in the not-so-distant future. The problem was that I’d been suffering with a very specific physical symptom of anxiety for 7 months. I’ve spoken enough about that particular thing enough on my personal blog so I won’t go into it again, but if you’re interested, you can find a post about it here.
The point is, photography has presented me with a hobby that enables me to practice mindfulness, but in a very practical and rewarding way.
There are two definitions for the word and they are:
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
It ought to go without saying that I much prefer the second one. It’s often said of any artform that you benefit from being emotionally and presently connected with what you’re doing in the moment. That’s the art behind creation, really. If you can pick up the necessary skills and carry out the artform almost without thinking and just living in the moment, you’ve got it. Of course, there is no way on this Earth I can try and claim to have mastered photography, far from it. However, the distraction from my own body and unhealthy anxieties that the hobby provides has been instrumental in my mental state at least temporarily improving for now. Berlin was such an uncomfortable experience and I couldn’t really concentrate on anything we went to see because I felt so tense and strange. Had I picked up a compact camera prior to that holiday, the photos might have been crap, but I’d have had something to learn as I went along and there would have to have been some decent photos come from it.
Wedding wasn’t the most picturesque of locations, but there were still photo opportunities. Seemingly abandoned football courts and playgrounds, kebab houses filled with interesting characters… then there was the East side of Berlin, specifically around the Jannowitzbrücke S-Bahn station. An area totally different, even now, to the more commercialised West. What it seemingly lacked in government investment though, it made up for in community spirit and creativity. RAW-Tempel nightclub, for example, would have been a fantastic spot for taking photos. Berliners, in my experience are such approachable and affable people, I’d have had no problem walking around until the early hours, taking photos as I went. Perhaps the one, outstanding thing I regret not taking a camera for though, is the U-Bahn stations. They were rarely packed with people during our visit, but there were enough there for me to use them as decent subjects in a frame. The stations themselves are wonderful though, pouring with an artful character that the London Underground quite simply lacks.
Who knows? had I taken my camera, my brain may well have allowed me to do all of this, considering I would have had something specific to focus on.
Next time I’m on holiday, my Nikon may well stay at home, but the RX100 will be going with me. Along with a spare battery.