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joanna paterson

along the way

Being Alone in Photography

Being alone is, for me, a necessary condition for slow, deliberate photography.

Although there are some people that I can happily walk with (well, one or two if I’m honest), walking with photography in mind is a different beast entirely, and is best practiced alone.

Alone offers the space and most importantly time: to mooch and meander, to notice without aim, to bend down, shuffle round or lie down on the warm earth, to watch and gasp in wonder without needing to explain why you’re taking so long, and what it is you’re looking at when there’s nothing apparently to see.

This kind of aloneness, walking with camera in hand, is, for me, a gift, and probably the main reason I am hooked on the practice of photography.

It is not just time out, but also time in: to really notice, to appreciate and wonder and connect, to be alone to be reminded, over and over, that you are not.

summer work

summer work

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Reflections on being alone, as part of a new project sharing photographs based on a single word (a word a week, from David Whyte’s book Consolations). The word this week was alone. More on the project from the announcement post by Kim Manley Ort.

Comments

Gilly says:

It’s the same for me, Joanna – photography is usually something I like to do alone. I can switch off and get into the ‘zone’ in a way I can’t if someone else is there. There are some times, though, with the right friend, when being with someone adds to the experience. It has to be the right person, the one you know won’t mind if you take ages and ages photographing one thing, and who is probably doing the same thing herself – these kind of friends are rare and to be treasured.

Joanna says:

It’s interesting Gilly, as I was writing this I was imaginging that it *could* work if you were photographing alongside others who could get similarly lost in the zone (I like the way you put that) – but I don’t (yet) know anyone who would fit the bill. But this is definitely ‘not yet’!

Jane says:

Joanna, I quite agree with you. I much prefer to do my own thing. That way no one will think I am silly focusing on something so strange and holding them up from getting on. However, I did have a great experience a few years ago, on a visit to England. My brother persuaded me to walk up Scafell Pike in the Lake District with him. Well to be honest I didn’t know that was what we were doing until we were half way up! ( I have a history of giving up on mountains that goes back to my childhood. ) Anyway, he is a great photographer, landscapes and people mainly, whereas I like to concentrate on the details. We happily took about four times longer to climb the mountain than the guide books suggest, but boy did we have a great time! Neither minded the other dilly dallying….a real pleasure that we rarely enjoy living on opposite sides of the world now.

Joanna says:

That sounds like an amazing experience Jane, the two of you lost in focusing in separate but connectrd ways. A precious memory.

[…] Joanna Paterson ponders being alone in photography.  I also find it easiest to take photos when alone, and I agree very much with her realization […]

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