One of my favorite ways to deepen my understanding of myself as an artist is to dive into my own archives and explore themes that emerge. It’s like an archeological dig into my subconscious. I am attracted to certain subject matter again and again (we all are), but I often don’t realize it until I look back on years of shooting.
If you were to look at my Lightroom library, you would see a long list of keywords used to categorize the subjects and themes that I see during my archive searches. I have keywords for flowers and grasses, family and home life, silhouettes, double exposure, freelensing, self-portraits. I even have a folder titled book where I store photos for a photographic book I’d love to publish someday. (Just putting that out there, Universe.) The folders are cluttered and disorganized, but much like my desk (and my sock drawer), I have a pretty good idea where to find what I am looking for.
One such folder in my Lightroom library is titled cell phone. This folder is chock full of photographs of people on their cell phones at their beach. It’s a visual story I am drawn to as I travel the world. It seems there is nary a corner of this planet without the ubiquitous cell phone. It’s a universal technology that plagues us, occupies us, and allows any and all to photograph and share their experiences.
Like many of you, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Just yesterday, a friend and I were
complaining bitterly discussing how attached our children are to media in its many forms. I wrote about it here nearly three years ago, and I still document my children on their devices as I wrestle with its impact on their development. It’s clear to me that this is a subject that resonates deeply with me, both on a personal level and also in my work with the broader world.
Constantly connected, even when in nature. Able to document every moment, and disseminate it widely. Remember the days when we went away on vacation and wrote postcards to our loved ones, or waited to share our stories with friends and family when we returned home?
When I look at this collection, I see how very flat the world has become. Across virtually all cultures, we have the universal gesture of holding a phone in the palm of our hands. I wonder what, if anything, will replace this phenomenon some day. In ten or twenty years will these photographs look as strange to our eyes as it does to see an old-school rotary dial telephone? For now, I will continue to capture what I see, and I’ll process my feelings and conclusions with distance and time.