As I was typing out the title, I started to wonder what connection would mean to people in the context of photography. Would the first thing coming to mind be the wifi connection of your phone or perhaps the connections on social media made by sharing images? I am guessing that for some of you this might be exactly what came to mind, but I am actually referring to a very different kind of connection. A connection that I fear might get lost entirely if we are not mindful of it.
The connection that I want to discuss is the connection to your subject, to the landscape, to life, to "reality". If self expression in photography is your goal, if you want to express your impression of a scene, it is important to tune into the scene. Let me explain this in a way that you might all be able to relate to. Let's say you are trying to tune into your favourite radio station, but the frequency you picked is off just a bit and you hear an awful lot of noise. You can still make out some of the music, but the main thing you'll hear is the noise. I challenge you to filter out the noise completely and just hear the music. I think very few people will succeed. I know I won't be able to do this, because I will most probably only hear the noise and get more and more agitated by it.
If you are in a beautiful landscape and your goal is to make a picture that does justice to how you perceive the scene and the impact it has on you, you need to connect to your surroundings. After connecting, you'll be able to see beyond the mere surface of the landscape and things will start to stand out to you. The things that stand out to you, are those you feel more connected to and this is how you start to see beyond the obvious.
This kind of connection is also one that is easily disturbed, just as with the radio with its wrong frequency. Last year I was photographing in a snowy forest and my phone went off time and time again. I completely lost my connection to what I was trying to create and was unable to find back my flow after that. This is when I realised that if I want to create, I need to tune into the creative process, the moment and the landscape completely and that my phone was adding the "wrong frequency" noise at times like that.
Ever since that time I have hardly ever made those little video clips for Instagram Stories that I like to watch from other photographers, because the mere act of filming for social media gets my creativity off trail. The noise will make it impossible to make a deep connection with my surroundings. I will still be able to take pictures on auto-pilot; things that I have experience in photographing, familiar scenes. These pictures though will be an assembly of the elements in the scene. They will probably depict the following : tree, snow, fog, more trees....I however want to depict something else, I want the elements to be combined in a way that they might convey an emotion. I want the picture to evoke a feeling that people can relate to, like mysterious, mystical, still, peaceful etc. To be able to make a picture that does more than simply depicting tree, path, mist, I must tune in to the landscape.
I must find the right frequency, so to speak. I want to be a part of the moment and of the scene, I need to become just the observer deeply immersed in the moment, so I can more clearly see what stands out to me and how I can tell the story of my impression best.
These days, when I am out and about making pictures, I always numb all my apps on my phone except my....phone. If I am in the forest and I would get into trouble, I might need to make a phone call. I however don't want to spend time on any apps or messages when I am creating. I love social media for the real life connections they bring me through sharing my work and I feel it is only fair that if I connect on social media, I tune into that as well. For everything there is the right time and the right place. If I am creating, I am not connecting on the phone. I am connecting to my surroundings instead. If I am connecting on social media, that is my main focus at that moment.
Somehow it has become normal to be multitasking all the time and I think multitasking does not lead to better or more creative results. I would even go as far as to state that multitasking is a threat to real creativity and also to living and experiencing the moments that matter most of all. In the end, it will not matter if you had 1200 or 6000 likes on a picture on the day when you could have been totally immersed in the experience of seeing a wonderful waterfall or finding a secluded hidden spot.
Try to connect to whatever you are photographing, find bliss in it and switch off your phone and switch on your senses. Look beyond the obvious, be connected by being disconnected and create from this place of deep connection.