Dialogue

The therapeutic nature of photography walks

Whenever I feel disoriented or not in control of my life, I simply need to find a moment to go on a walk that's at least 30 minutes long. I've learned that half an hour is the minimum amount of time required to purge any internal chaos and find balance again.

Mitchel Lensink
May 4, 2022
9 min read
Street photo of Amersfoort's historic centre

Avid and not-so-avid readers alike,

In this life, you can be anything you want. And the past month, I chose to be mad at the world and impatient with everything. By now, I know why that was but it took a series of events to come to that realization. So apologies in advance, this missive will be even longer than usual. To make things a little better, I stuffed the story with images to make things a little less dry.

One thing's for sure though, my consternations were not to blame on the kind people that have taken the time to reply to my emails. By now, you might know that I ask to share your thoughts with me in each message I send. I truly mean it when I say all is welcome and I wish to extend a big and gracious thank you to the handful of people that did just that. And yes, I do reply to every email I receive.

Now for this month's story.

The young and the restless

It's 9 AM on a Thursday and the tightness in my throat is back. The past few days have been fun but also fully planned out by anybody other than myself. That's something I've grown to dislike a lot. I really want, no wait, need to go out on a long walk and take some photos right now. I need a moment to myself, where I can freely create while being alone with my thoughts. Expeditions like that, however brief they may be, are almost grown into a form of therapy for me. I need to take back control.

Whenever I feel disoriented or not in control of my life, I simply need to find a moment to go on a walk that's at least 30 minutes long. I've learned that half an hour is the minimum amount of time required to purge any internal chaos and find balance again. So each time I sense I'm shifting in the wrong direction, I go for that 30-minute walk and I'm fine again. Mental clarity restored and restless legs tired out.

The feeling of being lost is exactly this Thursday morning's mood as well but I need to go to work. In fact, I should've been there already. I better hurry. Before I leave though, I do the old trick of slinging my camera across my body and vow to dedicate some time to myself this afternoon.

Revisitation

Come 1:30 PM and I am in a spot I've been to countless times before. I used to live downtown and for that two-year period, all I did was walk circles in that area. There is not a single street I haven't set foot in before. The last time is already a few years ago though and I like to think my photography skills have improved since then. So now I'm back in an environment I previously deemed exhausted to see if I can squeeze some new material out of it.

As always, I intend to walk at least 5KM to make it count toward my 50 walks goal. I can usually cover that distance in a little over an hour if I walk briskly while pausing intermittently to take photos. It's a good combination of low-intensity physical exercise and fulfilling my creative urges. On this particular day though, not everything is going according to plan.

Photo of plants in the streets of Amersfoort
Amersfoort, April 7th, 2022

It's a little over 3 PM when I finish the loop I set out for myself, which turns out to be only 2,35 KM. That's obviously not good enough. Despite my best intentions, I am disproportionally exhausted from the short walk and decide to call it a day. I bury the small video camera I had strapped to my chest in a jacket pocket and stow away my X100V underneath my jacket as I get back onto my bicycle. It's time to go back home.

Gone fishing

The next day, a friend rings me up but I decline the call. The office is filled to the brim with people and I'm not at liberty to speak of anything that's not work-related. Or at least I don't want people listening in on my private conversations. I do send a text to my friend though, 'Can't call right now but what's up?' I type. 'I wanted to know if you feel like going out this afternoon to take some photos and maybe a video as well', he replies. So coincidentally at 1:30 PM again, I find myself back out on the streets.

We're wandering around the small fishing village we chose as our destination without a clear goal, except for experiencing the tranquility that comes with a 21K population. We walk along both sides of the picturesque harbor, only pausing for a second to observe some boat maintenance being done across the water. I document it with my Fuji X100V and the DJI Action 2 I brought with me again. We ask multiple people for the best place to eat some fish and we're unanimously pointed towards a little snack bar that only has outdoor seating. We happily oblige and are soon enjoying what we assume is the catch of the day.

Close up photo of a herring sandwich
Bunschoten-Spakenburg, April 8th, 2022

Walk the roads while they're there

Something is changing inside me. I'm scrolling through my work from this month in Lightroom and I'm happy with the results. Something is definitely happening beneath the surface. It's not quite an emerging pattern yet but I do see more intention in my subjects as well as connections between individual shots. I'm still shooting with the same Film Simulation Recipe I shared last month, though I've updated the White Balance Shift to -2 Red & +2 Blue for a slightly cooler look. Maybe that's more my type of vibe. Or maybe, guess what, I can change things whenever I want to and don't think about it too much. Either way, I feel like I'm growing.

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All photos in this newsletter are available as fine art prints in many different sizes. You can also browse my archive. Simply send me an email for inquiries.

Another thing that might soon be changing is a small neighborhood close to the city center that's tucked in a corner where the river the Eem and the Valleikanaal meet. There's been talk of demolishing it years ago and that plan has recently resurfaced. The local government already had a plan to restructure the neighborhood but the housing corporation was adamant about the demolishment. So far, its inhabitants successfully prohibited them from doing it but with the pending restructuring plans, change is unavoidable.

A photo of a woman cycling through the old neighborhood
Amersfoort, April 13th, 2022

With that in the back of my mind, I set out to walk every individual street of the neighborhood in its current state, before that's no longer possible. I look like a weirdo, walking up and down the same streets a couple of times to cover every block but I'm mostly being left alone. Just as I'm about to go home though, a lady emerges from her home and calls out to me, 'Hey! Can I ask what you are doing around here all day?!', she exclaims in an unwelcoming tone. I approach, ready to calm her down, lighten the mood and explain my good intentions but as I get closer, I can increasingly feel the wary hostility she radiates.

A fence being held up with multiple supports
Amersfoort, April 13th, 2022

I quickly learn some people there have major trust issues and don't like when strangers with cameras walk up and down their precious streets. They might not know what I'm doing exactly but it can't be to their benefit. Nothing ever has before. As far as they know, I'm probably somebody from some construction company or, even worse, in service of an architect that's secretly planning the next apartment complex and has sent me to scope out the area.

a car parked in the street of the old neighborhood
Amersfoort, April 13th, 2022

I'm neither of those things but she doesn't sway much from her preconceptions as I try to explain that. In my mind, I could perhaps even benefit the neighborhood and its future by telling a story of romance and community that's worthy of preservation but this final interaction has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I can't really blame her though, perhaps I'd feel the same in her position, but I'm once again wondering why we all can't be a little nicer to each other.

I shot a video during the three outings described above. If you're not a photography enthusiast, it's rather boring. If you are though, you might be in for a treat!

Long walk progress

It's April 20th and the progress on the Grebbeliniepad I promised myself to make after my winter break is non-existent (the Grebbeline path is a 90 KM route that I've been walking intermittently since September last year). I need to at least somewhat keep my promise though. A few months ago, I took the bus out to the start of the route and walked back home from there. Part of it was closed off for construction though, resulting in my GPS data now being incomplete. The goal is to walk the entirety of the Grebbeline and therefore gaps in the data are unacceptable.

So on this sunny afternoon, I hop on my bike to investigate if the closed-off section has opened up again. If I’m lucky and it is, I’ll walk that section again this weekend. It's a 40-minute bike ride with a strong headwind and when I arrive at the previously closed-off section, there's still a fence. Bummer.

A landscape photo of the lush green nature along the Grebbeline
Grebbeliniepad near Leusden, April 30th, 2022

I cycle back with the wind in my back so I take a detour to enjoy the warm spring weather and blossoming flora around me. As my feet peddle rhythmically pedal underneath me, I ponder on a plan B for making progress on the walk but ultimately decide it's probably best if I simply walk some sections again. The seasons have changed and who knows how that might affect the images I make along the way.

A full ten days after that decision was made, right on the edge of the month, I stand firmly with my feet on the dusty historical path again. The value of revisiting a place becomes clear immediately as large portions of the trees appear to have been removed, changing the landscape drastically. Next to that, the many sheep roaming the route have recently lambed as well so I'm welcomed by a dozen pairs of curious eyes when I pass by.

Lambs looking at me taking a photo of them
Grebbeliniepad near Leusden, April 30th, 2022

For a month that started with frustration, it ends surprisingly focussed and centered. Physical activity combined with creative fulfillment has truly been the medicine against it all. Last month's mantra (gym, walking, photography, harmony), is still very relevant.

Liked that story? Please consider forwarding it to a friend. It only takes a few seconds, writing it took four days this time. Thanks!

The photo that sold for 10K

Before I end, I have one lingering thought I want to bestow upon this inner circle of subscribers. Here it goes. I'm thinking about doing a photography art project (or stunt, maybe it's a stunt) where I sell a single photo for ten thousand euros. Is that crazy? Maybe. But I want to see how far I can take things.

Here are the ideas I have to make the image worth 10K so far:

  • Museum-quality archival fine art paper
  • A custom frame from the finest material
  • A certificate of authenticity
  • A one of a kind zine/book with accompanying material

Some other ideas of varying feasibility:

  • An invite-only exposition of the entire project in a secret location
  • Ten accompanying high-quality prints in cheaper frames, or without frames, for a more economical price (think: 1K each)

Here are some challenges I can currently identify (I'm sure there are more):

  • There is no photography project yet...
  • I have no idea what type of image suits a project like this
  • Imposter syndrome is constantly tapping me on the shoulder, asking for attention.

That's all I have for now. The timeline is undetermined so this might take years to complete. I just wanted to put it out there for posterity and maybe gather some feedback. So, what do you think?

Talk soon,

Mitch

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