We recently lost Baxter, our beloved Golden Retriever of 14 years. Huge, smiling, always gentle, amiable: ‘Bax’ was the quintessential “gentle giant” of a dog, never showing any anger or snappiness with our other, smaller dog, or our three cats that he was forced to coexist with in our home.
After a year-long bout with cancer, Baxter finally had to be euthanized, the action performed in our home by our long-time vet, surrounded by our family. We buried him on our property and have slowly begun to heal, adjusting to life without “the bear.”
This morning while commuting, I had one of those moments when, suddenly, I felt Baxter’s full presence once more, a big, beautiful hulk of a dog. As painful as that moment was, it got me thinking about how fragile life is and how much we take for granted all of the loved ones that surround us in this life….and how, as photographers, we seek to create tiny little slices of immortality when we photograph.
Think about your own photography and what motivates you. Why do you photograph? That’s a really complicated question, I know. While there are many reasons to photograph-some utilitarian, some sublime-I think one of the reasons for me is a desire to create something that will outlast me: works of art which will resonate with people in years to come, long after I’m past the point of being able to create them. Aren’t our photographs efforts, at least on one level, to preserve tiny slices of life, moments in time? Isn’t that one of the things that most of us are probably after, if we stop and think about it?
I know I marvel when I look at casual photos made years ago of my kids when they were young: trips to the beach or camping in the mountains. I can hold one of those pictures in my hands and study it for moments at a time, looking at the miracle of that young face, now grown into a beautiful and graceful young man or woman. Photography really does stop time, doesn’t it? At least for that instant. Maybe that’s enough.
So what’s the takeaway here? I think it’s simply to really try and slow down, grab your camera, go out and make a beautiful photograph. One that truly satisfies your soul. A tiny slice of immortality, maybe. Go out and be deliberate about what you do: this could be your last day to shoot, who knows? There’s a wonderful Navajo expression which I love, and which comes to mind when I think about these things: “Walk in Beauty.” Be aware of the awesome miracle that is our world, and how fortunate we are to live here, now.
Make great photographs!
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog