‘Why do you want to be a photographer?’, a simple question someone asked me months ago. ‘Well… because it makes me happy!’. ‘Why does it make you happy?’. … ‘Because it does???’. I knew I had to find the answer to this question. So I started analysing myself, overthinking this question again and again.
And then suddenly, a few days ago, the answer was right there, before my eyes. I had put a book on the ‘wrong spot’ in my bookcase. The book ‘The Crossroads Of Should And Must’ now stood side-to-side with a book called ‘Lost Connections’.
The Crossroads Of Should And Must
This colourful book is based on an essay the author published on a website called medium.com before. You can read it here (link). It’s about life purpose. Elle writes that we choose between what we should do and what we must do.
“Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small.”
“Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own.”
This book made me see how I want live more according to my ‘must’ and less to my ‘should’. The resulting struggles seem to be worth doing what I want to do. Starting a business as a photographer brings stresses, fears, insecurities to my life. Sometimes so much, that I start wondering whether it’s worth it. But the conclusion is always YES, because I know photographing lovers in nature is what gives me most fulfillment. That’s a fact, but WHY this gives me so much fulfillment I still didn’t know.
I read the other book, called Lost Connections, while hiking the West Highland Way. It is about causes of depression and anxiety. Every evening I would read some pages, in my sleeping bag with a head torch on. The next day we would walk for hours and hours and I had plenty of time to think about what I had read the night before.
The book focusses on connection, and how absence of certain connections leads to unhappiness, and in specific depression and anxiety. The author suggests 9 ‘disconnections’ as causes of depression and anxiety. Among these are disconnection from meaningful work, from other people, from meaningful values, from the natural world and from a hopeful/secure future.
Reading this book made clear to me some ‘solutions’ that I unconsciously already knew. I have experienced several episodes of depression over the past years, up till this summer. No matter how bad I would feel, feeling connected to people and nature would always make me feel better. When I booked the tickets to Scotland, it was because I longed for being in nature, wild camping, hiking, spending time with my best friend whom I see by far not often enough. I experienced that just knowing I’d be hiking with my friend in a few months from then, would already help me through the darkest days.
Although I’ve been doing better lately, depression has had a big impact on my life. I am working very hard on having healthy habits and feeling connected, to prevent falling back into another episode. Still, sometimes I feel at the edge of falling back, and then I know I have to meet with the most important people in my life and to go into nature. Although life is crazy busy by times, these connections have become the most important ‘appointments’ in my agenda.
I think restoring and maintaining connections is not only relevant for people struggling with depression and/or anxiety. If connections are so important that an absence can result in such serious mental pains, then we should all ensure to keep them at an optimal level. These connections can mean the difference between a neutral to good life with some bad days, and an unhappy life with some good days.
I want to make you feel (re)connected
So, I’ve learned how important feeling connected to others is. I am not a mental health care provider, but still I believe I can help others. I can make people feel seen and worthy, by small gestures. When I am feeling unwell, just a smile from a stranger of someone taking time to have a little chat with me when in the supermarket/bus-stop/forest can brighten up my day. Sometimes that little gesture is enough to get me out of a negative spiral. Maybe it will make me smile too, and maybe another passer-by will smile back at me. And when someone smiles at me, I will feel even better, smile even more, etc. (now there is a positive spiral).
So, making people feel seen and connected is important to me. In that light, it makes sense that I enjoy taking lovers on a walk-plus-photoshoot in nature so much. In a time where we are all busy working, socialising, phone-checking, etc., there seems to be so little quality time to spend together. During the loveshoot you have an hour or two to spend with full attention for your lover. You can focus on how cute he smiles, how hearing him laugh makes you feel, how warm his skin feels on yours, how safe you feel in his arms, etc.
By taking you into nature, I can give you some (re)connection with the natural world, even if we spend just a short time outdoors. Being on a beautiful, quiet location, we’ll be smelling the pine trees, the sand just after a rain shower, the autumn leaves… We’ll feel emerged in the landscape we stand in. We might see some birds hoovering over the nearby trees, or hundreds of ants carrying way-too-big forest materials home. We will feel the sun on our skin, the wind in our hair, maybe the cold in our feet. We won’t be distracted by phone sounds reminding us all the time of the things we ‘have to do’ and ‘should be doing’. We’ll not be distracted by Instagram pictures showing us how much more perfect and amazing our lifes should be. No, we are back-to-basics, present in the moment, feeling part of something bigger.
Why bring the camera on a walk in nature
If it was just (re)connection with nature and people that I wanted to give to you, I could just take you on a walk. So, why bring the camera? This part of my WHY I understand very well. I want to capture these very important ingredients for a life worth living. I want to capture the moments that you feel connected, so you can look back at the pictures and relive that moment. To feel a part of something bigger, part of that huge heather field or that dense forest, again. To remember the moment you stepped out of the car and had wide views on a large area with sand dunes and heather and pine trees. Oh, remember the smell of the pine trees. Oh, and the wind felt so good in your hair. And that hot chocolate was soooo good after that crazy woman took you for a hike at temperatures around zero. Furthermore, I want you to see what I saw that day. The beautiful people that you are. The love and emotions on your faces.
I don’t like having a lot of things. But I can never have enough pictures. I print a selection of all pictures I take. Pictures are some of the most valuable things I own.
My first boyfriend was terminally ill and my last memories of him are of him being sick. I see a bold boy, way too skinny after chemotherapy, lying in bed knowing he wouldn’t get better. Ever. Not the nicest way to remember someone you loved. But I have pictures, pictures of him before we knew he’d be sick and never recover. Pictures showing a healthy young boy, having an awesome day at the beach with his friends. And I cannot describe in words how special these pictures are to me. They help me remember what was there before the hospital; the fun and the love and the feeling of having an whole future ahead of us.
Not all my favorite pictures have such a sad story. There are pictures of friends that I made a long time ago and who I haven’t seen for years. And pictures of my travels, furry friends, favorite places, food, etc. I think pictures are a powerful tool to get you back in a moment and mood just by looking at them. I can look at pictures of a calm Loch I camped at and feel instantly much calmer. I can look at a picture of my friend stuck in a gate and start laughing because I remember what happened before and after I took that picture.
Pictures not only help you remember a moment, they might also inspire you for the future. They might inspire you to strive to feel everyday like on that mountain, just by going for a walk in your local forest. They might inspire you to call that friend that you had such an awesome time with 2 years ago.
Long story short
So, summarized, this is why I want to take pictures of people in nature: I think feeling connected with nature and other people is very important for living a life worth living. By taking pictures of people in nature, I can help them (re)connect and provide them with pictures that will help them remember.
I am very curious why you are doing what you are doing. Please let me know and inspire me by replying on my Facebook-post or below 🙂
Cover picture by Marleen Annema, one of those people that I feel so connected with <3