Dialogue

Starting a new photo project

I have started a new photo project and each time I've told people so far, they've looked at me questioningly. I get that, but I don't think I'm crazy. Hear me out.

Mitchel Lensink
Jul 1, 2024
5 min read
a window in a brick wall where the glass is removed and is filled in with bricks as well

Table of Contents

Kind readers,

I can't get lost. Not right now.

It's not so much about the images. Though those are a nice result, of course. Something to take home, hold onto, remember. But it's not about the images.

Why am I doing this?

Look, I love a good project with a clear purpose. Tasks in a list that I check off to grant myself that sense of accomplishment. Something tangible to work towards. A story to tell to the people around me. I need that, if I want them to follow along.

But why though? What's the ultimate goal?

It can't just be to have people follow along. That's not a goal, that's a tool. A means to an end. Ignoring the fact that reducing other human beings to mere 'followers' for a moment, the act of increasing that number is intended to widen my reach. To allow more people to hear the noise I make. Selfishly so. Perhaps still beneficial to some (it's definitely nice to spark other people's curiosity in some way, the benefits of that peer-to-peer exchange of energy are definitely not lost on me), and hopefully without malice, of course, but fundamentally selfish.

Followers, a dirty word

But I can't go without. That following, I mean. I need other people to be interested in the things I find interesting. So I come up with these stories. A motivation for my actions. Hooks for people to grab onto, recognize themselves in, attach their identities to. Nothing attracts attention better than a good story. Successfully telling a good story feels nice. Conveying my emotions in a way that people respond to can send chills down my spine. But they gotta respond though. It's not the same when it stays silent.

So these stories, to attract these followers, need some sort of meaning. A reason for them to be told. Guess what, those are projects. A good project is nice, but also not a goal. Not in itself. That's just something to keep myself busy. The idea that my actions hold value in a wider context is what keeps me going. I'm lying to myself, at times more than others, just to get my ass out the door. "I am contributing to my community, this work has value for society, my actions matter", I whisper to myself. Over and over again; a self-affirming mantra that shan't be forgotten. Though at the end of the day, I now also have a story to tell.

A task list, turned project, turned story, turned audience. More ears picking up the noises I make. Because, well let's just say it, more ears means more wallets. But that still doesn't answer my question: why?

Money, an even dirtier word

If you now think money is the goal, and I wouldn't blame you after that elaborate setup I just did, then you are destined for unhappiness. Doomed to the grind. Money, just like an audience, stories, projects, and tasks, is a way to achieve the ultimate goal. And it's right there in front of me. The reason why I'm here, why I can't get lost, is to remember, to see, to feel, to experience.

Your life is short and this world is beautiful, if you learn to see it. And that takes time. You know how you get more time? Have more money. How do you get that money? Make sure you get other people interested in what you're doing. How do you get them interested? Tell good stories. How do you come up with these stories? Do good projects.

A new project

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I started a new project. It's called Things I Have Seen and for this project I am walking every street of my hometown in The Netherlands, Amersfoort, while photographing every nook and cranny along the way. To keep track of my progress, I record GPS data that I then plot onto a map of the city. That GPS data also allows me to geotag the images I make. I love doing these photo projects. They truly are an amazing tool to find a purpose for my work and, hopefully, provide some value to the people around me. Does that mean I hope to exchange that value for some eyeballs, eventually perhaps even for some currency? Of course I do. Though not because I'm trying to get rich by doing this, but because I want to continue doing it as much as possible.

A map of the progress of the walk so far
Progress of the walk so far

You can follow along with the new project on the dedicated project page on my website. I also create the occasional video updates. Just a minute or two where I update you on my progress and, you know, simply show you the things I see along the way. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.

A string of celebrations

So please, I implore you, to be present, to be aware of what's happening. I use a camera to force myself to keep my head up and my eyes open. Those images are my reason to go somewhere. Because if you manage to take a good image, one that makes you feel something, that means you managed to connect to that moment, you made a memory and that image is there to prove it. Hopefully you don't need tricks like these to value your time here, maybe you have different ones. It doesn't matter. As long as life doesn't pass you by in a haze of events but rather as a string of celebrations, you've achieved success.

What better goal is there?

Mitch

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