The Stoic Photographer: Principles and Practises
Why do You Need To Become a Little Stoic Today - Brain Fodder
Why Should I Become a Stoic Photographer: Principles and Practises For Mindsetting
IN TODAYS EMAIL WE COVER THE FOLLOWING
⚡️ The Perfect Mindset: Being at One with Your Photography
🧠 Deep dive: What is Stoicism, and how does this apply?
🔍 Don’t Worry: Worrying about how others think your work, WHY?
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🔗 Link: Stoic Exercises of the Mind: https://shorturl.at/eiHKQ
Let’s condense stoicism into practical terms for photography and a photographer’s life: how to become a better-balanced photographer.
1. Prioritise Effort Over Outcome
The stoic approach starts with a shift in focus from results to efforts. While you have the power to shape your actions and mindset, the reactions of others—and, indeed, the success of each photograph—are beyond your control.
In street photography, this translates to concentrating on the creative process. You command the dedication you invest, your chosen locations, and the moments you capture. Yet, the magic of a shot hinges on unpredictable elements—the whims of weather, the moods of subjects, and the fate of life.
Lesson 1: Embrace Detachment from Results
Do not be disheartened if your efforts do not yield immediate success. Days or even years might pass without capturing a shot that satisfies you. Accept this as part of the journey. Street photography is an exploration and a celebration of life, not just a quest for the perfect shot.
Prepare for the Worst-Case Scenario
In street photography, readiness for adverse reactions or even confrontations is part of the mental fortification. Over the years, I’ve faced various challenges, from public disapproval to physical altercations. These experiences have only strengthened my resolve and fearlessness.
Mental Fortitude is Key
Remember, street photography is essentially a psychological endeavour. Courage is paramount, and imagining the worst-case scenario can inoculate you against the sting of actual mishaps.
3. Consider Mortality
“Memento mori”—the stoic reminder of death—motivates us to utilise time wisely. Reflecting on works like Seneca's “On the Shortness of Life” can compel us to live urgently, focusing on our missions and disregarding trivial pursuits.
This mindset is critical in photography. Every day could be the last chance to create something meaningful, to capture a moment that speaks to your soul or others'.
Lesson 3: Embrace Focused Intensity
In practise, this means stripping away the non-essential, pursuing projects with personal resonance, and living with intensity and purpose—whether it’s spending time with loved ones or engaging in creative work that may benefit future generations.
Stoicism teaches us to focus on what we can control and to accept what we cannot. This philosophy is not only applicable to our personal lives but also to the art of photography. Here are some examples of how various photographers can interpret and apply stoicism:
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As a Street Photographer:
Embrace the uncontrollable elements of the streets—weather, light, subjects—and find peace in the unpredictability
Concentrate on the process—walking, observing, clicking—rather than fretting over the outcome of each shot.
When faced with rejection or confrontation, remember that these are external events beyond your control and maintain your composure.
As a Fashion Photographer:
Understand that fashion trends and client preferences are often beyond your control; focus instead on your creative expression.
Use feedback not as criticism but as a chance to grow and refine your artistic vision, staying true to your style.
As a Portrait Photographer:
Realise the unique beauty in each subject and aim to bring out their character, regardless of external opinions.
Stay detached from the need for approval; appreciate the privilege of capturing the essence of another human being.
As an Amateur Photographer:
Delight in the learning process, treating each photograph as a step in your journey, not as an end.
Let go of comparisons with others; focus on your growth and the joy photography brings you
In everyday life, stoicism reminds us to use our tools—our cameras, our vision—to their full potential today, for it's the only time we truly own them. Whether you capture the fleeting moments on city streets, the latest fashion line, the depths of a human soul, or the simple beauties around you, do it purposefully, confronting fear with preparedness and always seeking to strip away the inessential.
Embrace today, and shoot with the knowledge that each frame could be your magnum opus.
Stoicism, an ancient philosophy that emphasises self-control, rationality, and virtue as a means to achieve tranquilly, aligns well with the practise of photography in various ways:
Acceptance of What You Can't Control: In photography, much like life, there are elements out of your control: lighting, subject behaviour, or the perfect moment. Stoicism teaches acceptance of these factors, allowing photographers to focus on what they can influence—such as their reaction and adaptability to these situations [2†source]].
Focus on the Process Over the Outcome: Stoicism advocates focusing on the effort rather than the results. This can be remarkably liberating in photography, where the creative process and the act of taking a photograph are valued over the pressure of capturing a flawless image.
Resilience in the Face of Adversity: Photography often involves challenges and setbacks, such as technical difficulties or missed opportunities. Stoicism encourages stability and views these obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn rather than reasons for frustration.
Mindfulness and Presence: Stoicism encourages living in the present moment, which is essential in photography when waiting for the right shot. It teaches photographers to be fully engaged with their environment and their subjects, leading to more thoughtful and impactful images.
Embracing Simplicity: Stoic philosophy promotes simplicity and removing unnecessary desires. In photography, this could mean working with minimal gear or finding satisfaction in simple compositions, leading to a more focused and intentional approach to the craft.
Practising Gratitude: Stoics practise gratitude, which can translate into appreciating the beauty in everyday scenes, finding value in all subjects, and being thankful for the ability to capture the world through the lens.
Reflection and Personal Growth: Finally, stoicism is about personal improvement and wisdom. Photography can be a medium for self-expression and thinking, helping photographers understand themselves and their perspectives on the world better.
Incorporating stoic principles into photography encourages a mindful, patient, and resilient approach to the art, aligning with the stoic goal of living a fulfilled and balanced life.
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