In an era where it’s all too easy to get caught up in things you can’t change, Claire Menary shares how photography helps her stay connected…
In today’s world we’re all guilty of getting caught on a roundabout of hopping from screen to screen and task to task with little thought for anything else.
Appreciating your own personal experiences can be a tricky thing to accomplish, but it doesn’t have to mean a four-month yoga retreat and cutting yourself off from civilisation.
Photographer Claire Menary captures moments for a living, and has gained some invaluable wisdom along the way.
Here, she tells us about her photography journey and shares how we can take from the medium to learn to be more connected in today’s world…
I first got into photography when I was a teenager.
It was around the time of smartphones with cameras and that’s when it became a thing. I loved taking photos of everything. I wasn’t any good but I really enjoyed documenting every single thing.
I guess you could say I got into professional photography by accident.
I used to work in PR and I found a lot of the clients were asking me to take a couple of photos for them because Instagram was becoming really big and businesses needed to start thinking about it a lot more.
It was 2016 when I’d had enough of doing PR, so one day I decided to call myself a photographer. I’d been trialling it for six months or so and then I just took the leap.
My mum and my brother were really encouraging during that time, considering freelance is a risky industry for many. They were like, “You’re good at this, so just try it and give it a shot.”
To support someone to go freelance when they’re trying to pursue something that they’ve never done professionally before is quite a risk.
I never really thought that much about what I was doing, I just liked taking photographs and I was good at it so I decided to give it a shot. That was four and a half years ago, so it turned out well!
Switching off in today’s world is so difficult.
You live in front of a screen, whether it’s a TV, a phone or a laptop. We need to actively remember to switch off and that life is not to be lived through a screen.
With photography you have to be in the moment to capture what you need.
Your mind can’t be elsewhere and you can’t be thinking about something else.
You have to be in that moment and it teaches you to ground yourself in life more generally and shut down the tabs in your brain telling you to do a million different things.
It makes you go, “Right, you have this subject that you’re dealing with, so just focus on that moment.”
For me it’s especially true if I’m shooting something like a wedding. You have to be in every single moment and every second of that wedding, so you don’t have time to think elsewhere.
It teaches you to be grounded in that sense and then you can pass it on to your personal life where you can train your mind to focus and switch off from everything you don’t need to be doing.
Using photography to connect
Photography is visual and it’s also so deeply connected with memory.
Most of the time when you connect with something it’s because you’ve had a previous experience.
I like that photography can draw people into a moment they’ve had in the past and they can recognise it and say, “We went there” or “We love this place.”
There’s so much past that’s in a moment and in a photograph and that’s what people do to connect – they go into their past experiences.
I remember I took a picture of a random shop front in Sorrento years ago.
I posted it on Instagram during the first lockdown and someone messaged me saying their mum used to live above the shop and they wanted to purchase it as a print.
It was just really nice that that means something to someone out there.
Photography is so subjective, so if someone else connects with it that’s amazing and really cool.
Capturing your experiences
Photography is so subjective.
You can create your own story and showcase to others how you see things, whether it’s big things like your perspective on life or smaller things like the details that you see.
Sometimes people really resonate with that, and then it opens their minds to other things as well.
It can even be something simple.
For example, take a building that everyone has seen a million times over. If I were to shoot it in a totally different way it would make people think again.
You get so used to seeing things in one way with tunnel vision and with photography you can suddenly see a whole new perspective and realise that there’s a new way of looking at things.
It challenges you to think a bit more and I think that we can apply that to life outside photography as well in terms of being present and being willing to open your mind to other perspectives.
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