There’s a thought in music that says that the spaces between notes are more important than the notes themselves. Essentially, this is the notion that notes played are made more valuable by the silence around them. As a guitar player I agree with this notion. But I think it’s an idea the goes beyond music and has application to life in general.
Last summer a friend and I took a road trip out west. We hit the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota with the intention of making a short film about a couple guys hitting the road and doing a photography and camping adventure. In the process of trying to put together the short film about that I’ve found myself trying to figure out what the story of that trip is. The deeper into it I’ve gotten, the more the theme of slowing down has made itself prevalent. We started the trip with a basic, but sound plan. Go one place, spend time there, go to another place, spend time there, then head home. We ended up breaking the plan to try and add more things into the trip. Which led to a lot of hurrying up.
Which brings me back to my opening few sentences.
I think that the idea that musical notes are made stronger by what’s not played is akin to the idea that sometimes—maybe often times—in life we need to slow down. It’s more important to live and breathe in the moment we’re in, and that the value of that moment is improved by being in it and not trying to add more to it than should naturally be there. It’s the old “stop and smell the roses” cliché. It’s also a counter to the idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence—meaning, water your lawn by slowing down and appreciating what’s there, not what you want to be there.
As a photographer this is a thing that I struggle with. In a highspeed digital world where “creators” are constantly pushing content through YouTube and Instagram and other platforms it’s easy to get lost in the noise. And I don’t mean not having our signal heard by others, but hearing it for ourselves. We compare our work to others, and usually not in the constructively critical way that helps us get better but in that self-defeating way that limits us and holds us back by telling us we’ll never be that good. We look at the gear other people have and think, “If I just had what they have I could do what they do!” instead of just doing what -we- do. Our thing.
We live in a world of inspiration-on-demand. Need an idea? Just get on YouTube or Instagram and you’re sure to be overwhelmed by them. Hell, there’s a whole market for YouTubers who do nothing but make “inspirational” videos for photographers and filmmakers. And it’s totally cool to use that as a source to start a project or maybe kick a creative rut.
But what about you?
Or, really, what about me?
Who am I in all this?
That’s for me to figure out. Without comparing myself to others in a way that doesn’t actually help me. And for me, I’m learning more and more that it means I need to slow down. Make the most of the moment. Where I am. What I’m doing. The subject I’m capturing. Or the note I’m playing. Not the next one. Not the one that came before it. But the here. The now.
Forever exists in the spaces between what was and what will be. And it’s my job as a photographer—and as a musician—to capture it.