Unplug. Multi-Tasking Doesn't Work May 31 2010, 0 Comments

The summer heat has arrived in the south and as I drive with my windows up and the air conditioning running full blast, I see the car next to me has the windows rolled down. Stopped at a traffic light, I can hear the radio blaring.  I watch people in a nearby park. Some are plugged into their iPods as they walk their dogs. Others are talking on their cell phones or sending texts.  I have come to believe that I am among the few who still enjoy the silence found in the early morning hours or the opportunity to hear my own thoughts as I drive in a quiet car.

As my days are filled with art shows this time of year, they are anything but quiet. I sell my work sharing the art of photography with those passing through in the hope that they will be better able to take their own photographs. While at a festival recently, someone asked me how I take such fine photographs. He said his photos never turn out the way he hopes. So I asked him, “What exactly are you doing when you’re taking photographs? “Well”, he explained, “I put on my iPod and listen to tunes. Sometimes, I have my little girl with me and I shoot while I watch her play at the beach.”

What this pleasant person has done is common. We use the term multi-task. But in this case splitting ones focus doesn’t work. Some skills demand complete attention.  I often tell people that what I capture with my camera is the voice of the landscape, something I can only hear if I am submerged in the moment.

Good photography requires that I measure light, compose, set f-stops and shutter speeds. I can’t possibly be plugged in to anything else. I think we have forgotten to teach an entire generation how valuable the quiet is. I have heard the same comment from so many young people, “I can’t stand the quiet. Have to have my music on.” And then I wondered, what are they afraid they are going to hear?