Finding purpose and alignment as a photographer5 min read

Mitchel Lensink De Lens Hoge Veluwe Black and white landscape photography

Hi guys,

It’s so good to have you back! After my previous email I had zero people unsubscribe. I guess you didn’t hate my writing enough to immediately turn your back so thank you!

This time, I want to talk to you about finding purpose and alignment. If that sounds a little vague to you then I understand. I used to think the same. In the past, I was a firm believer in simply making good stuff and not thinking too much about how that aligns with my personal values. This made me produce work, quite a lot of it, but it was an endless grind without finding much fulfillment in what I was doing.

Eventually this turned out to be counterproductive. I was making progress as a photographer but not really as a person. I might’ve even been making progress in the wrong direction, if you will.

That’s why I gave myself a good long look and asked a few questions.

  • What kind of person do I want to be?
  • What things are giving or costing me energy?
  • Where do I want to be and how to I want to move around?
  • What do I like about/in photography?
  • And most of all, how can I use the skills I have to bring some good to the world?

The answers to these questions did not come easily and they’ve taken some soul-searching. To be honest, I still don’t think I’m completely there. But there’s a lesson in that.

You don’t need the definitive answers to those questions. There is no need to hold onto those until the end of days. Instead, it’s okay to be fluid in your opinions, your actions, your values. As long as you make sure that the way you handle things right now is in alignment with your purpose.

Looking for alignment

Now what are some of the things I already know? I know I want to be a good person, who’s generally relaxed and handles things with intelligence (this isn’t a given), intention and determination. I’m not somebody who needs to be in the spotlight but I do look for greatness and recognition. I’m an observer, rather than a participant, and I’m fully comfortable in that role. I like to move around light-footed without being forced to stay stationary (I hope that makes sense). These are things I strive for but still catch myself not fully adhering to from time to time.

I also know I like photography because of its spontaneous character and being able to capture fleeting moments. I don’t like staged shoots and I don’t like working in a studio environment (most of the time). I don’t care for high-end fashion nor redundant materialistic stuff. I like things clean and minimal and find things that aren’t a distraction, rather than a requirement.

Finding purpose

With that in mind, I looked under a few stones and around a few corners but ultimately decided that I find the most enjoyment in documentary photography. It’s a direction I feel comfortable with and I believe aligns with the person I am trying to be.

Nothing is set in stone but at this time, I like to think of myself as a witness of the present. Just another somebody who’s alive right now and documents the times as we know it. Sure the images that produces might be a little boring for now but my thinking is that they will hold some sort of significance someday in the future. We all know those registrations from back in the day that allow us to peek back in time and amaze ourselves with how things were done. I believe our present will have a similar effect when future people are looking back at the beginning of the 21st century. After all, we must realise we are living in the history of the future.

A related project

In alignment with (see what I did there?) the above, I started a little video side-project. It’s possibly one of the most boring ways you can record things but I think that’s how you get to the purest form or registration. The ultimate documentation of the times, even?

The full name of the project is ‘Do You Register? – a boring documentation of today’ and I shoot 10 minute long, single shots on a tripod. That’s it. No editing, no fancy camera work, no beginning, middle or end. It’s just 10 minutes of a random scene that I think could be fun to watch 30 years from now.

If you want, you can read a little more on my thinking here and here. The videos will be collected in this playlist on YouTube. But I also have a page on my website that I keep updated.

I plan to keep recording these 10 minute windows into our current time indefinitely but we’ll see how long it remains a fun thing to do. If you have any suggestions on how I can spice up the videos without abandoning the concept then please let me know!

Rounding up

I had a few other things I wanted to share but I think this story is long enough already. Therefore I want to conclude by saying: thank you for reading. I hope my brainwaves spark some of your own and feel free to share those as well. Even if you disagree with my stances or think they’re stupid. I don’t have the answers but I’m not afraid to look for them either.

Until next time.

Mitch

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