The animals we are, human beings, evolved as a hunter gatherer species. We are designed to move through the land, following our food sources. This was the norm for our species for 1.8 millions years. Things have changed. Society has advanced at faster rates than ever in the last 100 years. Much faster than we are can keep up on an evolutionary basis.
It is easier and safer for us to live now than it ever has been. Modern medicine stops us from falling victim to plagues and disease. We live in communities where we don’t have to worry about being eaten by predators. We live longer lives than any ancestors before us. Yet we suffer from stress, anxiety and depression on an unprecedented level. Surely the greatest and safest time to be alive as a human being should be having the opposite affect on our mental health? We can go down the street to get a meal without having to hunt it or worry about it hurting us before we kill it.
No don’t get me wrong, I’m a photographer and digital marketer, I love technology and how it has evolved. It has changed the way we live and it is awesome. But there is a balance.
The bulk of our populations are congested and packed tightly into major cities. Cities that many of us never leave. We live, work and spend our spare time in the cities or surrounding suburbs. We continue to work longer and longer hours. Dealing with the constant stress of work, deadlines, money, bills and the list goes on.
We are social creatures. For 1.8 million years we lived in tribes. Tribes that relied upon every member for survival. If you were outcast from your tribe to live alone, the chance of survival would be near impossible. We no longer have to rely on our community for survival, or to play our part to ensure the survival of our community. We seem to have changed almost to an every man for himself race for success and achievement. I’ve worked sales jobs all my life and I’ve seen it first hand. Instead of working together as a team, people will deliberately sabotage their workmates in order to climb over them on the corporate ladder. When you’re employed by the same company, aren’t you on the same team?
We get so caught up in achieving success and portraying our success or how amazing our life is through social media that we never stop. So many of us never fulfil our need for connection to other humans and nature. When was the last time you were away from the city or the suburbs, immersed in nature. No phone signal, disconnected from the world? That idea seems to terrify some people. Not having phone signal. I can assure you it is so liberating. When was the last time you looked up at a night sky when you are completely void of light pollution? Some people would never have witnessed this.
If there is one thing I have learnt from being a photographer, it’s that we are connected to nature. On an underlying level. It’s hard to describe but I assume it all goes back to our genetic link to nature, we can’t survive without it. Nature would survive without us, but not the other way round.
There is something about being surrounded by nature that can calm us, make us leave our stresses behind, forget about work and the bills. There’s something that happens that refreshes and recharges us. Standing on top of a mountain over looking valleys and mountain ranges trailing off to the horizon or standing on a beach looking at the coastline stretching off in the distance with no one around. I guess it can put things in perspective to a point.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, you probably haven’t gotten this far anyway, but if you have then try it. If you haven’t been out into the wilderness recently, put a day aside and go on an adventure somewhere. Leave your phone in the car, don’t wander around taking a photos on your phone that you’ll never go back and look at, the phone or camera can act as a barrier between you and the experience right in front of you and trust me, the images you take will never do the scene justice. I once hiked 13km through mountain ranges to a campsite 2000m above sea level to capture a sunset, astro and sunrise from this mountain. This location blew me away, I found a great spot and set up for sunset, it was amazing, having clouds hovering around at eye level over some of the lower mountain ranges and the golden light of sunset creeping through onto the tree lines below. I took 2 images and then turned the camera off and sat there for an hour, in awe. Am I disappointed or annoyed I didn’t take more photos? No, not a tall. I will always have that experience and no amount of images I could have taken would ever give that same feeling to anyone viewing them. Had I continued to take photos I would have been too focussed on if they were exposed correctly or if the composition was right, I would have missed the experience completely.
So, forget the phone and the pictures, just let yourself be in the experience completely, without the barrier between you and it and reconnect to nature. Yes, I’m a photographer telling you to not take photos sometimes. Sometimes I don’t.