I don't know if I can explain how I feel about photography.
As someone who does not travel often or even has much of a life (due to my health), digital photography has, I feel, literally saved me. It has given my a hobby that is essentially free (once you buy all that expensive equipment!), something I can share with friends that makes them "Oooo!" and "Ahhhh!" (pretty gratifying I admit), and dragged me into the outside world now and then, when I would likely rather go back to bed. And, when the winter has dumped a foot of snow on me (like today) and I am probably stuck in the house for a couple of days until I can shovel out-----or when I feel kind of hopeless, pessimistic about the future, and so tired I can hardly think-----I can turn on my computer and look at some amazing, magical scene that I got a picture of a couple of summers ago, and be transported back to that moment. And remember the smell of the fresh lake air, the cries of the gulls, an early morning walk along the beach before anyone else was up.
Art is one of the most important things there is, and ironically one of the first things to go when things get difficult. We view it as frivolous, a luxury. When we think of "the essentials" we think of our physical needs: food, shelter, warmth. But we don't think of our spiritual essentials, and "art" is usually at the bottom of any list of what we "need". And yet it is art that saves us in the midst of life's difficulties by connecting us with our own hearts. Art reminds each of us who we are deep down in our souls, when we have most forgotten; so easily do we forget. Without that connection we are apt to wander about in difficulty hopelessly, unable to find our path, stumbling down roads that lead us further from who we are.
Art leads us closer.
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life" is a quote from Pablo Picasso, a great artist. And I believe not just the creation of art, which is essential to every human life, but the viewing of art as well. By experiencing another person's vision, we are given not just a new perspective but also a chance to "try on" a part of that person for a moment. Why did they take this photograph? Do they really like this stuff? Look how they found such an intimate detail, and framed it so delicately, so that I notice something completely new for me. Look how they have brought it to my attention.
I do believe that the creation of art also is essential to and present in everyone's life. "Oh, I'm not creative", I have heard dozens of people say. But I believe that everyone is creative, no exceptions. It is part of who we are, part of every living thing. The trees are creative; the wind that shapes the snowdrifts is creative; the black threads of geese unfurling against the clouds are creative. Art is not just a painting in a frame hanging on a wall. Art is in every thing around us, as well as in our choices about the way we live and who we choose to be; how we look and sound and move. In colour, in music, in light, in movement, in words, in every means of expression and every object.
But we get covered in dust and lose track of it, so gradually it happens, one little speck at a time. The drudgery of daily life, the routine, the worry that creeps in, the tiredness. Without even feeling a change, we become covered in the dust of everyday life, and walk by the sacred art that surrounds us without seeing or hearing it.
That is the role of art: to illuminate part of the very heart of life, that gets by us in everyday living. Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, if just for a moment. In that moment we remember what we knew as children: that everything is both curious and amazing, and that everywhere there are magical and beautiful and heartbreaking things to discover and express.
What could possibly be more essential?
"And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything."
~ William Shakespeare, from As You Like It