Few things speak so positively about the genuine inclusiveness, the overall democratization, of modern photography than what has come to be known, informally, as the "photowalk." I know whereof I speak. I went on two of them since I last posted; about a week ago with my favorite and oft-mentioned co-conspirators Chaz and Keri, and earlier this week with my friend and colleague Darcie, braving the rains and wind out in the Columbia Gorge. This didn't happen much, if at all, back in the day.
Not that many people had cameras, I guess, and film provided no immediate excitement. Most folks who did own a little 35mm camera or a Kodak Instamatic broke them out only for special occasions and vacations to the Grand Canyon. Even my dad, artist as we was, would break out the old 8mm Bell & Howell and make mini-movies that rarely saw the light of day. My colleagues who actually were photographers were busy working. We rarely got together to just go out and shoot. Drink, yes, but shooting just for fun, not so much.
Happily, all this has changed. Unhappily, something else has, too.
I've been reading an article this week on the increasing unhappiness of my fellow grownups. You'd think that creeping age and bad knees would be bad enough, but it's garnered serious attention among mental health professionals. Here's the statement that really hit me: "Most research suggests that age brings happiness because people become more content, they become more settled overall...We found that since 2010, that's no longer true." Yikes.
I make to pretense at figuring out what's going on here, and I'm in no position to judge. My own regimen of coffee in the morning and tequila at night is probably not a satisfactory salve. But I see hidden within this the happy conjunction of creativity and positivity. Everybody has a camera now. And yes, that's a very good thing.
Unhappiness is a complex thing, and the universe weighs upon each of us in its own particular way. I don't really think there are forces of darkness so much as there is a gray ordinariness in our lives. Cameras -- and the likely chance to use them -- are perfect tools for painting a little color back into those gray walls. To hell with the rain, let's go find a little un-ordinariness.
We'll call it a Photowalk.