SLOW TRAVEL / SLOW FOOD / SLOW PARENTING / SLOW COOKING / SLOW MEDICINE / SLOW SEX / SLOW LIVING / SLOW WHATELSE…
The list of SLOW-THIS and SLOW-THAT goes on and will probably continue to get longer over time…
So do we now also need SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY?
The short answer is: NO, WE DO NOT.
You may not have expected this answer from a photographer who has written SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY on his flags.😃
Seriously, for humanity, there are much more pressing issues than slowing down when taking photographs.
But as it happens there are folks out there for whom photography is important. I am one of those ‘nut heads’…
And it is in human nature that we want to get the most out of something that is important for us or something we enjoy.
Part of the quest to get the most out of something is to become better at it. And to get pleasure and joy from it.
And in this pursuit, different approaches work for different people. There is no universally accepted best way though.
Though, there is no universally accepted ‘best way’.
‘What works for me may not work for you. And that’s OK.’Seth Godin
I, for my part, propose SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY as a possible way to get more out of photography. And in the following you can find out why I think that way.
How I got into SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY
A few years back I discovered by coincidence that using slightly different technology – namely a manual focusing lens, had a profound impact on how I approach taking photographs.
Why? Because it slowed me down.
This ‘slowing-down’ forced me to approach the craft of taking photographs differently.
So I wanted to share this experience with the world. At first, I thought I would name this experience MANUAL FOCUS & VINTAGE LENS PHOTOGRAPHY.
But that would be completely missing the point because I never want to put technology or a rigid methodology at the centre of my pursuit.
While on the topic of technology. Focusing manually is not the only way on how you can force yourself to slow down. Setting the aperture or the shutter speed manually would do exactly the same.
Which goes to prove that slowing down is not dependent on focusing manually.
Regardless of the methodology it is this ‘slowness’ which does the trick for me.
Hence I choose to use the term SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY?
You can read the longer version of ‘my transformation’ at HOW SLOW VINTAGE & MANUAL FOCUS LENSES MADE ME A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER.
Here is what slowing down did for my photography
As I became more observant of how I take photographs I realized the following:
To become better at anything we do need to examine what we are doing and how we do it.
And slowing down is hugely beneficial for this.
Slowing down makes me pay more attention to the process of taking photographs. Not only in a technical sense but also when photographing people for instance, how I interact with the subjects of my photographs.
I also became more experimental and playful. Why ? Because experimentation leads to errors and mistakes. And while some folks think that mistakes throw us back, in actuality they do the opposite. They allow us to grow as craftsmen/woman and move our craft forward.
Let me share a tale with you to illustrate my point.
I once went to the beach with a 500 mm mirror lens. Just to play with it and see how to handle this ‘puppy’.
Manually focusing a 500 mm lens on moving subjects is challenging, to put it mildly. So naturally I made a lot of mistakes.
But this is not the end of the story. Because from my focusing errors I learned that by deliberately setting the focus ‘wrong’ I got beautiful abstract compositions which ended up being some of my all-time favorite photos I ever took. Here are a few examples:
If you are interested, you can see more from this series and also discover the background on how those photos came into being over at my website in this article.
The ‘fun factor’
It is not about the pursuit of happiness, but the happiness of pursuit…
It is not that by slowing down my photos became vastly better. What are better photographs anyway? This is highly subjective, isn’t it…
For me, better meant I got more pleasure and fun out of taking photographs. After 15 years photographing professionally I kinda lost the pleasure factor. Taking photographs became somewhat mechanical. By practicing SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY the fun and pleasure are back.
It appears self-evident to me that when you get more joy out of a particular pursuit you will produce better results.
SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY and the parallels to SLOW THIS&THAT movements
Recently someone asked me how to see if a photograph is based on SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY. That got me thinking…To answer this I would like to draw an analogy to SLOW FOOD.
I may be wrong but I don’t think that even the high-priests of SLOW FOOD / SLOW COOKING will be able to say if a particular meal was prepared the slow food way or not.
I think to ask as to whether a photograph was made in the SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY WAY or whether a meal was prepared the SLOW FOOD / SLOW COOKING way is futile and will not bring you closer to enjoying the benefits from slowing down.
I also don’t think that anyone serious about SLOW COOKING will claim that the only way to make true SLOW COOKING is to use only open fire just because it slows down the process of food preparation.
It is not (always) only the end result that counts
For me the essence of anything SLOW THIS OR SLOW THAT is paying more attention, and to think and engage more with whatever pursuit we choose to engage in.
And in doing so we inevitably slow down.
The term SLOW-WHATEVER is just a term. Because merely taking longer to do something will just make you inefficient.
Whereas if you utilize the slowness of pursuit to become more mindful of what you do, then you may be up to something.
I think one could even make a case for a SLOW-TAKE-A-SHOWER movement.
Yes, seriously. By examining what soap we use, how long we take a shower, at which temperature the water should be, what time of the day taking a shower is most beneficial and many other questions… we will arrive at certain conclusions.
Whether you will be able to derive benefit from those conclusions will depend on how obsessed you are with the art-of-taking-a-shower.
It is perfectly conceivable that a more mindful approach to taking a shower will make some folks happier and have a more fulfilled life. And what is bad about that…?
For me it’s not about where I arrived but how I got there. I know this sounds ‘cheesy’ or right out of a snake oil seller’s brochure… and it perhaps is.
Yet it worked for me. Will it work for you or not? Unless you try, you probably will never know.
If you feel intrigued please head over to my website where I have a few more resources about SLOW PHOTOGRAPHY.
Greetings from wonderful BALI