A long time ago, before social media came into the picture, I was a photographer with a film camera. I learned to capture the beauty of life through the lens of a Mamiya Twin Lens camera in 1998, a time when film was not cheap, especially as an art student.
I had to think about my shots; the composition, lighting, subject matter, etc. I was forced to observe my surroundings and take many factors into consideration.
I loved documentary photographers like Robert Frank and Dorothea Lange, who took chances and immersed themselves in the social landscape making you feel as if you were there taking part of each incredible moment in time. Moments that most might of seen as ordinary but now we view as extraordinary artefacts of a lost way of life.
When you realize you are a photographer life starts to become a series of events and beauty captured in your own personal viewfinder. It can be meditative in nature but also a distraction from inner dialogue and truth.
Travelling to Australia in 2004 I packed my Nikon F70 alongside a healthy dose of film. My intention was to capture my experiences, the people and the cultural contrast. When I arrived on the shores of Cairns, Queensland, an interesting thing happened; I barely used my camera. Instead of capturing the experience I “lived” the experience.
At the time I couldn’t quite express why, I was young and just learning about myself, but a part of me was tired of trying to capture the moment. I was usually frustrated by the outcome and I was curious to find out what would happen if I put the camera down. Instead, I listened to people, took in my surroundings of wallabies, spiders, snakes, flying foxes and tropical birds. A part of me feared I would regret it, but in the end, I didn’t. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
In 2017 I was working tirelessly on my blog, podcast and brand Cara Jones Speaks. I wanted it to be successful and I put hours upon hours reading about how to make that happen. I followed back all my Twitter followers, I learned about Search Engine Optimization, YouTube Algorithms, and I managed to get myself to the number six spot in the iTunes Society & Culture page. The thing that irritated me (a symptom of my need for control) was not being able to figure out the basics of engagement. What made people listen, watch and share?
This obsession to “understand” and “succeed” took over and became and unhealthy coping mechanism in dealing with the stress of my personal life, something I felt I couldn’t control. My family had become plagued with mental illness and I was desperate to help them. I had convinced myself that if I could make this brand work and make money from it I could provide for everyone and in the end that would cure the problem. Trust me, I knew how that sounded in my mind and that is why I am writing this now.
I had lost sight of why I started Cara Jones Speaks in the first place, to share extraordinary stories and experiences of the people I meet on my journey, not “Become successful so you can move home and help your family.”
I lost sight of the simple things in life and I needed to get back to living it. When I had this realization profound things began to occur and my life shifted in ways I could have never imagined. I had to learn to trust the process and let go of the outcome.
I didn’t completely stop documenting, I just changed the way I approached each scenario. I continually asked the question, “Why was I documenting?”
Like in the first days of my learning to become a photographer I took in the whole scene, experienced the joy, told the story and let it go. It became a form of meditation and I began to learn to let go of the outcome. It was not an easy thing to do but necessary in order for me to fully embrace the joy of life.
I love watching trends on YouTube and in media as a whole. It fascinates me because people fascinate me, but it becomes apparent in these trends that I am not the only one who feels the void of a platform without the physical human connection. Digital platforms have become an incredibly powerful tool in helping stories be told and creating spaces for conversations that are long overdue around issues such as sexual assault, Indigenous reconciliation, and LGBTQ2S+ rights and freedoms to name a few.
How do we find balance? That is question that we all have to face daily and only we can answer honestly. The journey for me has become one of auditing what is important in my life and one of the most important aspects that take front and centre, next to health, is a connection. Authentic connection.
So that is exactly what I did, I connected. I allowed myself to feel so many different emotions by tuning into the people whose stories I was helping to tell. Some of those emotions included anger, sadness, and absolute joy.
What does this all mean in my journey as a content creator and artist? It means that I will continue to be vulnerable, open and confident to hold space for extraordinary stories, places, and people. It also means that I am starting fresh with a true understanding of the importance of self-care, self-love and admitting that sometimes I just don’t understand the world or my role in it.
Putting down the lens and opening myself to live through different senses has created deeper relationships between myself and the stories I hope to share with you. Stay tuned for insight to some of the amazing journeys I experienced in 2018 and the new journeys I am excited to experience in 2019.
In closing, I would like to shout out to content creator Lilly Singh who just released a video discussing her break from YouTube. Even though I have not come even close to the “success” that Lilly has achieved online her words and experience reflected the feelings I was experiencing when I decided to take a break. Check out her awesome content and her inspiring video discussing that moment when you decide to put down the lens.