Seeing Beauty

“When you see beauty anywhere, it’s a reflection of yourself” – Shakti Gawain

I’ve read this quote on an Instagram post a while ago and thought it was a really beautiful sentence. It also made me ask myself why I’m not seeing beauty anywhere anymore. I realised that the answer might have been the reason why I’ve been struggling so much with my photography in Germany for the last year.
I think I’ve stopped being happy.

When I think back to even a year ago, I used to be a very positive person. My photography came from a positive place in my heart. It was my way of expressing my ‘love’ and interest for the world. I loved what I was doing and therefore was happy where I was.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be unhappy now. It’s more like a feeling of indifference with a touch of negativity. I still enjoy what I’m primarily doing – studying landscape architecture – but for about a year now it feels like my studies have been forcing me to invest more and more time into things I don’t enjoy doing. Things unrelated to landscape architecture which slowly turn it from a passion into a burden. I noticed that it made me a lot more negative towards the world around me – including photography.

Even though this isn’t really a major issue, it has affected my photography quite significantly. It’s hard for me to find beauty here in Kassel anymore. I often walk around for hours and hours without seeing anything which sparks my interest. Apparently, the quote from Shakti Gawain goes the other way around as well. When you don’t see beauty anywhere, it’s a reflection of yourself.
I now feel that one reason why I could go shooting in China every day, for six hours straight and not be fed up with it is that I was happy there. Sure, it’s a new place with lots of unknown corners and cultural differences – obviously shooting there was going to be fun. But I think the main reason was that I could get inspiration from a positive side. The side I was used to getting my inspiration from.

Here in Germany though, I’m not sure if the positives still outweigh the negatives. Therefore, maybe I have to change perspective and address what makes me unhappy with my photography. Or maybe I have to leave Germany.
Jtinseoul wrote a very thought-provoking blog post recently in which he talked about how being happy has changed his photography. He used street photography as a way to overcome his fears. Almost like a therapeutic process. In the end he concluded that he liked the way his photography evolved. He accepted ‘mediocrity’ as a price for his new found happiness. His post really resonated with me because it seems to be the other way around in my situation. It’s way harder though, maybe even wrong, to accept unhappiness. I guess I should seek to use photography as something therapeutic as well, something that can help me getting back to a truly happy state.
I’ve already noticed that my images have become much more honest and less optimistic or idealising. Regarding photography, I actually like this shift that I’m going through right now. Maybe negativity and struggle are a part of what makes our work meaningful. Personally on the other hand, I much prefer having a positive mindset.

I know things will change soon and that this state of unhappiness is only temporary. Maybe it’s a much-needed lesson for me. Maybe if I embrace it with open arms a solution will come up and I will start seeing beauty again. After all, compared to what many other people are going through, my whining is just peanuts. But I think it’s important to know where the inspiration for your photography is originating from. Only then can you put ‘yourself’ into the pictures you’re taking.

I’d be interested to hear where your photography is coming from. Is it an expression of positivity or do you use it to deal with your problems? How would you say does this affect your work?

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All images are subject to copyright © Aram Franke 2019

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