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The Photowalk as Recovery

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Going to Pratt and constantly producing creative work for your classes can become tedious overtime. Maybe the magic of attending a top art and design school has faded and the passions that existed in the first semester of foundation year have started to wane. You might experience a feeling of emptiness when trying to squeeze the last drop of creative juices from your frontal lobe. These are all symptoms of being human. However, there is something you can try that might help bring back your spunk. When I found myself at my lowest of lows, I picked up a camera. It was through this wondrous, instant, rewarding medium called photography that I was able to recharge and recover.

The photowalk, while simple, can be quite effective at relieving stress. Not only are you flexing your creative muscle, you’ll be getting some exercise, fresh air, and a welcome dose of vitamin D. The first thing you need is a camera, any camera (your phone, point & shoot, mom’s old film camera, etc.). What's important is that the camera you bring is fun to use (fun is subjective--for me that means light and quick to click). Next, create a general plan for your adventure. Don’t think about it too much, just follow your impulses and explore. I usually pick a direction I don’t usually go in and just keep walking. New York City has so many interesting places to walk around--beautiful botanical gardens, the boardwalk at Coney Island, narrow alleyways in the Lower East Side, the waterfront in Long Island City. You’re bound to find something that inspires you. Lastly, let go of the reins and focus on being in the moment. Don't worry about how many or how few photographs you’re taking. Think about your surroundings and what draws your attention as you explore an unfamiliar environment. Any good photos you may catch are just bonus finds from your journey.

The most important thing is to be present. That means consciously observing your surroundings and trying to see them from a new perspective. If I’m walking down the street in Chinatown instead of traveling a conventional path, I will try to get lost in the nooks and crannies that would normally be overlooked by workers and tourists. Being present also means limiting distractions. These aren’t strict rules, but the ones I hold myself to are: no phone (unless you’re using it for photos--it’s easy to get distracted with devices that can tell us everything that’s happening in the whole entire world in our pockets), no music (it’s difficult to be fully present with one sense subdued), yes cafes (a coffee can be a peaceful moment of rest--especially when photographing in cold weather). If you’re feeling social, welcome interactions. Wave at a truck driver. Strike up a conversation with someone passing by. Sometimes the camera can be a starting point for more than just pictures.

If you’re going through a time where you can’t find the energy to start on that big project, a photowalk could be the first step in recharging that burnt out spark. The photowalk will be a different experience for each and every person. My preferences may not be ones that enrich you, and that’s okay! Do what feels natural and right for yourself. Step outside and remember: let go of the reins and be present. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!

written by
Nicholas Busigo
May 8, 2020