When I’ve been doing quite a lot of intense photography, I find I suffer from strange photographic dreams. There are far worse dreams I could have, but these photographic dreams are particularly frustrating because it’s in the dreams that I seem to be making my best pictures!
There isn’t really a beginning or end to the dream, I just suddenly become aware that I am taking pictures. There’s always a wonderful supply of subjects right on hand without having to wander around for hours. It feels like I’ve walked into ‘photo land’ where every street is amazing and filled with great-looking people who want to be photographed. I’m snapping away and saying all the right things and the people are really responsive and the backdrops are amazing and I know the pictures I’m getting are fantastic.
I’m fully aware all this is a dream, and I keep telling myself to remember this stuff and put it into practice, try to remember the framing, the angles, the expressions, etc. However, when I wake up it’s all gone. All that remains is the memory that I had a dream in which I was very energised, and taking amazing photographs, one after the other.
Apparently William Eggleston has similar dreams, so I know I’m not alone:
Often…I have these.. I call them ‘photographic dreams.’ They’re just one beautiful picture after another – which don’t exist. A short time later I don’t remember them. I just remember being very happy during the dream… Always in color.
I wonder how many other photographers experience these.
This thought kind of follows on from this one, where I question the reliability of asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. While I still think it’s near impossible to answer this question – and indeed find your purpose in life – I do think there are some questions you can ask that will help you on your way.
This list of seven strange questions from Mark Manson is particularly interesting.
I especially like questions #2, #3, #4, #6, and #7…
- What is true about you today that would make your eight year-old self cry?
- What makes you forget to eat and poop?
- How can you better embarrass yourself? (This one needs some explaining, so read the article by Mark).
- If you had to leave the house all day every day, where would you go and what would you do?
- If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
Probably still not going to give you reliable answers – because your thoughts will always be coloured by recent experiences – but an interesting exercise in navel gazing nonetheless!
I had an interesting conversation with a client recently. She was advocating the practice of sitting quietly and asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. The idea is that when you find that moment, you should plan your life to go forward in that direction.
While this is a nice idea in principle, I think it’s fundamentally flawed because we can’t reliably determine when we were at our happiest.
At any given moment, our thoughts and decisions are coloured by what is going on, or what has recently gone on around us. This uncontrollable mental filter changes the way we think, so with such grand questions it’s highly likely we will come to different answers on different days.
The only way to reliably determine when we are/were at our happiest is to engage third parties for triangulation. Yes, we can come to a decision on our own, but would independent observers reach the same decision?
Keeping a journal or blog can help, but our interpretation of what we have written can again be coloured by recent events.
An independent viewpoint is key. The difficult part is finding the observer who has known you long enough, and well enough, to be objective and honest.