How can we ever expect to be happy when we are capable of seeing ways things can always be improved? Happiness implies that things are just fine as they are, but we can imagine a better world than we can live in. In order to be happy, we have to be up to our necks in denial, or on some serious medication.
This is the only deal there is. It is our work to come to terms with it, make our peace with it, accept it for what it is, bear it as well as we are able, and do what we can with it. After we change all that can be changed, we are still going to have to live with what we don’t want, much of which will have to do with paying the price to change what can be changed. At some point, we are going to have to take a deep breath, and say, “This is how it is. Now what?”
The “Now what?” is about building a life we can be proud of with the materials at our disposal. What do we do with who we are, where we are, when we are, and how we are? How shall we live with what we have to live with? What will we do with the life that is ours?
What future will we shape, form, create, bring into being with the decisions and choices and the way we live in the here-and-now? What legacy will we leave behind? What is the character of our living? The nature of our life? What are the important things that we honor, and serve, with our lives? What are our lives about? What do we want them to be about?
What is the genius, the gift, that is ours to bring to life in the life we are living? What is our work? We live to express, to serve, to do what? What must we do? What nags us, pulls us, tugs us, pushes us, keeps after us? What do we keep wondering if we could do? What do we keep wishing we could do? Dreaming of doing? What, when we do it, immerses us in peace, disconnects us from “the real world,” and makes time stop? What keeps us from doing more of that?
Our job is often not our work. Our job pays the bills. Our work brings us to life, and is life. And, we don’t know why we do it, except that we love it so, and, really, cannot not do it. And, if we have to work to find a way to do our work, then we must do the work required to do the work that is ours to do. “What now?” is about doing what we must to do what we must. It is the solid, sure, path to living happily ever after.
Being a photographer is about being awake, being aware, being conscious, being present, being attuned to this moment right now. It is about seeing—seeing what is, and what also is, as it is, and as it will be, as it might be, as it could be. The photograph is just a step on the way to seeing the next scene better than we saw the last scene.
No one sees. Everyone is learning to see, hoping to see, trying to see, coming to see. And everyone sees what is to be seen a little differently from everyone else. No one takes the same pictures someone else takes. The differences may not make a difference, but they are there. We are not trying to see the way Ansel Adams saw. We are trying to see the way we see. When we look, what do we see? How can we photograph that in a way that expresses what we see? The effort to see and photograph what we see enables us to see better what is to be seen. We take pictures so that we might see what is before us. If they help you see what is before you, that’s fine, we do want you to see what we have seen, but we do not take pictures with you in mind. We take pictures to see, ourselves, what we have seen, and how we might have seen it differently, and what we might look for next time.
A photograph is an exercise in seeing. Photography is about learning to see. We take pictures to show ourselves how to see. To live unseeing is not what we want for ourselves or others. We believe deeply that we must not live unseeing. And so, we get up early, and stay out late, hoping to see what is to be seen. We live in the service of seeing.