My lecturer Michael Durand last week explained a concept to us that I knew without having a term for it. Michael is a photographic artist who has had a lot of commercial and artistic work commissioned which has been critically acclaimed. Particularly his series of images for the Central Bank made waves in Ireland. Working on commissions is – however much it is a photographer’s own project – still work. And photography can be hard work, involving a lot of preparation, organising and even physically hard work (although that is why you have an assistant who carries the lights and sandbag stabilizers from one set-up to the next *ggg*) – not to mention the mental drain that working creatively leaves in its wake.
It is therefore essential to have what Michael called “therapy photography” to keep you happy as a photographer. I call the same thing “sanity photography”: It describes the photographs that I take for no other reason than my own enjoyment or for projects that are close to my heart. Something that takes my mind off the projects I have to work on for college. I wouldn’t say that the latter are only “work” and no “play”. Of course I enjoy taking *any* picture. But the lightness of experimentation and just simply “snapping” is all but gone when you feel the pressure of “delivering”. And with the high standards of contemporary art criticism breathing down our necks, a beautiful landscape or a glowing sunset are unfortunately deemed irrelevant, tacky and unoriginal nowadays. Yet those are the images that would keep me happy and sane. Therefore I call the process of taking pictures only for my own enjoyment “sanity photography” – because it keeps me sane in the face of deadlines, technical intricacies, hardware problems and conceptual
My sanity photographs are often holiday snaps. Just taken for the sheer memory-assistance that they will provide in years to come. Or projects like “Friends of Analog” where we were dabbling with film photography despite most of us being very busy with college deadlines. Or a return to my first ever photography co-op with my friend M___ which resulted in a successful private exhibition a few years back. Or simply snapping anything that catches my attention without it fitting into a project or a highly theoretical concept.
Conincidentally, this “sanity” image has a rather calming, therapeutic feel to it. I think. Probably wouldn’t be altogether out of place in a nice little brochure, advertising the services of a retreat center or some such institution. All blurry dof and then the water droplet that contains and concentrates the world in 3ml of water… Ooooh, I have to resist the urge to develop a whole highbrow superstructure of concept for the pic… I am obviously already damaged by college *haha*
Anyone know the feeling? What do you take pictures of when you want to relax?