Do you ever look at the Instagram accounts of lifestyle bloggers and wonder how anyone actually has the time to live that lifestyle? Same. It’s easy to see it all on social media and begin to feel a sense of guilt that you don’t have something like that. Sometimes I imagine myself in the future looking back in disappointment that I didn’t take the time to document more of my life. What else will you have to look back on when those memories fade? As someone who typically only brings the camera out for planned shoots, travel, or large events this can be troubling.
To combat these feelings I’ve tried to be more purposeful when going to new places, or even hanging out with friends. I try to think of the experience from a photojournalistic standpoint and anticipate the places and moments I’ll want to look back to or write about. What I enjoy about it is that it has caused me to look at things a little differently and take a new approach to my photography. What I don’t like is that I’ve begun to compromise the very thing that made me want to start taking this more seriously - the ability to live in the moment and fully experience it.
Fog x FLO; The Fens
A great example of this was my most recent trip to Chicago. When it comes to planning trips (and my friends and family will confirm this) I’m very meticulous. Every detail of every day must have a plan as I feel the need to fill my time with activities. I spend a couple days researching where I want to eat breakfast, lunch, grab a coffee or a cocktail, and spend time sight-seeing. And you better believe aesthetic is a large part of that research. Don’t get me wrong - I’m choosing places that I truly want to experience and think I will enjoy, but there’s also a large part of the decision making that is purely for making content. I chose my Airbnb just so I could spend an hour or so taking interior shots for my portfolio and blog. Ben and I took the CTA 40 minutes to the outskirts of the city to the most blog-worthy hot dog establishment Chicago had to offer. We suffered through admittedly mediocre drinks at The Signature Lounge just so I could get shots of the city from a great vantage point without having to wait hours in the line at Willis Tower. (Not a terrible backup plan, but you get the point.) I went out of my way on this trip to make content. We had an amazing time in Chicago, but part of me looks back and wishes I saved more time for myself.
Another example of this is in smaller moments. If I have an event or party to go to, in the past I would leave the camera at home and just go do the thing. More recently I’ve been bringing my camera along to document and grab a few shots. Sometimes I’ll even plan to arrive hours before to wander around looking for photo opportunities. Where some might say it's just forward thinking, it can take away from my overall experience. Most of the time I would say I was happy to have done it, but there are times when I feel as though I’m giving myself assignments for my personal life. It’s not the best feeling to walk away from a fun night out with friends and be disappointed you didn’t get a specific shot or think of a concept at the time. While it makes me work harder as a photographer - and I can appreciate that - it ultimately takes away from my ability to truly experience.
So while this new effort isn’t entirely bad, it can be a double-edged sword. You look at the Casey Neistat’s of the world who seem to document their lives so beautifully and effortlessly, it’s hard not to make comparisons. We live our lives through a filter - it’s a fine line and I’m learning how to find a middle ground. It helps to know that even when the pressure to make content can be high, photography is not work for me. At the end of the day I’m happy to be putting in extra effort and working towards my best self. I just need to remember to also give myself time to put the camera down and live it, too.
I'd love to hear from anyone that struggles with the same thing - I know I’m not alone in my thoughts on this. How do you balance it all?