Take up the most rewarding of pastimes: photography

Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The words “I’m bored” always provoke in me a pang of irritation. I usually resist the temptation to rant a list of possibilities at the speaker or writer: read a book, watch a film, cook a meal, eat it, go for a run, take a train to somewhere you’ve never been before, phone a friend you haven’t spoken to for a long time, listen – really listen – to music, start learning a new language or to play a musical instrument, draw a picture, sit down next to a stranger on a park bench and talk to her, write a poem, look at a tree.

The photographer Andre Kertesz once said “the camera is my tool: through it I give a reason to everything around me.” Part of the beauty of photography as a pastime is that, unlike writing or painting, it does not require more equipment than can comfortably be carried in one hand, and it does not demand complete concentration or isolation: photography can supplement the enjoyment of almost all of the pursuits featured in this series. However, photography does not need to be a supplement, an add-on: it can be the impetus, the catalyst, to throw yourself into life in a way that you might otherwise not. If you decide you’re going to take a photograph of something interesting or beautiful, you must first find or make that beautiful thing.

I’ve heard it said that if you can’t take a good photograph in your own front garden, you won’t take a good photograph by going to China either. I’m not sure I completely agree, but that is because when we travel to somewhere new we are more open to the experience, in our minds and in our senses. The trick is to get out of auto-pilot: to keep your mind and your senses open even when you make the same train journey or walk the same street that you have every day for years.

You don’t need an expensive camera to take a “good” photograph, and you don’t need to take a “good” photograph to experience the joy of photography. If you don’t have a camera on your phone, buy a disposable. A snapshot which may seem meaningless or trivial at the time may, when looked at years later, become a source of learning and feeling; of the kind of pleasure that money can’t buy.



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