Like Adding a Bucket of Water to a Flood

I’ve been reading a book by Hayao Miyazaki recently, where amidst many other things he questions the necessity for creative work in an environment flooded with it. He writes:

[…] whether it’s necessary for someone to add a bucket of water to a flood, just because it’s particularly good water.

This sentence left my mouth agape for a while because it’s something I’m feeling very heavily these last few months, and here it was, so perfectly said in a few words, just decades ago. Then fortunately Miyazaki continues:

However, I can justify doing so by saying that even in the midst of a flood we still need to drink good water once in a while.

My platform of choice is definitely Instagram, where I mainly post nature and landscape shots, with the occasional small-Italian-city stuff.

I follow dozen of accounts of very talented people, sharing many pictures and art I wish I’d produced, and in a sense this drives me forward, in a direction where I can get nearer and nearer to the work of these people, but I can’t help to ask myself what’s the point if these people… well, already exist?

I didn’t start shooting pictures or draw because I was after a grand dream of artistic pursuit, I just did because it was a way to document my life and my surroundings, and at the same time to make sense of them. But the further I ventured, the more my mind told me to dig deeper, and dug I did. Further and deeper. What makes a picture interesting? How can I use this tool, this grammar, to tell my story? An equal mix of documentation, of story and of course the inevitable style.

Some people say that landscape photography is all about lenses and filters, but few talk about a different kind of tool, a mind filter. A mind filter is something that helps narrowing your focus to a specific subject. I think getting out to shoot anything is a terrible practice, and I’m a fond believer of projects for this very motive.

I can’t recall who said this, but I remember someone pointing out a very simple truth, that poets use the very same words we use, and that they’re all in a big book called a dictionary, so it could be said that Poetry is all but arranging words in a precise order. Couldn’t the same be said for photographic vision? What makes a photo of landscape mine, and what make it another’s if the land I’m shooting is the same, as is the camera and lens?

I think the answer is again that mind filter. Start by asking yourself why you are doing what you’re doing in the first place, what you want to communicate, to whom and how. Your motive needn’t be a grandiose one, it could be something as simple as making a beautiful piece of work to make a loved one's day a little better.

That’s what the mind filter is about, framing your mind to see the end result in your intention. Because if you let your mind loose to capture anything, you’ll just end up with a collection of irrelevant nothings.

Do you want to make the world a happier place? Do you want to make people reflect on an issue you care deeply about? Do you want to grant a lighthearted laugh?

Now put on your mind filter, and go do your work.