What already exists cannot exist again. Why would we want to recreate an event, image (or a memory) after years have passed? I believe it’s because we don’t want to or can’t let it go. We want to cling to that memory and to the emotion that we felt while creating it. We want to feel that same emotion so much so that we’re willing to try and recreate it again and again, just to feel it one more time. But in doing so how many times do we feel disappointed and let down that it didn’t work the way it did the first time? When it happened a different way than it did years ago?
Three years ago, October 13, 2013, was a very big day for me. With the help of Dawn Muncy and my family I was able to create my very first image. It was an amazing moment, not long before I had discovered Fine Art Photography through a live-streamed workshop on CreativeLive. I never saw myself as a photographer before that day, but when I saw the images Brooke Shaden could create I instantly fell in love with this creative style.
Above you see the image I shot three years ago, the image that changed my life. Shot at the Gloss Mountains in Oklahoma, my “team” and I got up super early to drive about an hour to get to this site. Once there it was still dark, but within a short period of time the sun was rising and the shot was taken. I’ve never shared this image with anyone besides family, so it is strange to see it here, but I wanted to share with all of you where I started.
I decided for the three-year anniversary of the picture I would shoot it again to show how far I’ve progressed. The only problem I faced was…well there were quite a few. For one, I don’t live in Oklahoma anymore and happen to live in the greenest state, where finding a patch of dirt bigger than a puddle is really hard. Other minor things were I didn’t have the same costume, I don’t have a battery powered dust blower (not that there is any dust to blow), and the dirt pile I found was surrounded by construction equipment. But tossing all of that aside I charged into the photoshoot ready to roll.
September 17, 2016 I shot the image. October 13, 2016 I shot the image again. And then October 20, 2016 I shot it again. I started to edit it once, realized it was completely blurry, edited it twice, realized it wasn’t going to work. After shooting it the last time I started to edit it again, but my computer decided to restart itself before I could save it and after a few more re-edits I finally had the image you see at the top. Never in my life did I think making such a simple image would be so hard! I wasn’t expecting any of these things to happen and when they did I kind of freaked out.
During these shoots and re-shoots, edits and re-edits, I keep asking myself why it wasn’t working. I didn’t realize until after the second time I shot it and the second time I tried to edit it what the problem was. The day before I shot it the third time I had tried and tried to make the image work in Photoshop. When it did work out I set it aside and decided to sleep on it. I kept telling myself there had to be a simple reason why it wasn’t working, and there was.
I was trying too hard. I wanted this image to turn out just like it did in 2013, only better, showing how I’ve advanced in three years. But it wasn’t going to work, because no matter what I did I couldn’t change the fact that things were different. Things have changed since then, making it impossible for me to create an image exactly the same. Realizing this made me change the way I was trying to shoot it. Instead of forcing myself to work with a construction site, I decided to shoot the image in the environment I’m in. Instead of trying to work with a team (even if it is only family), I decided to do a self-portrait with only me on the location.
When I shot the image this time it didn’t feel forced. I could tell I had chosen the right path to go down and because of it the image would turn out. I felt the familiar rush of excitement I get when the world disappears and it’s just me creating a story, becoming a new character. I didn’t feel that when I shot it the first two times.
Coming out of the creation process of this image was like emerging from a shell I’d tucked myself into. I learned so much with the process (besides making sure the image is in focus before you shoot) that I feel like a new person. The change wasn’t huge, but it was big enough to make me step back.
What already exists cannot exist again, or at least not like it did the first time it happened. Nothing can happen the same way twice. And when we try to force it to happen again, it will never be satisfying. To create something that already exists is to recreate history, to repeat the past. Why do we want to live in the past? Why not look to the future instead of the past?
Try, instead to create something new. Use the past as a foundation to build off of. Don’t discard what is behind you and lose one of your biggest assets. Learn from who you were and grow. Build from the past towards the future, changing towards the person you want to be.
And by trying to do this it is possible to dampen the original memory and change the way you remember it. But if we create something new based off of the old there is no way we can fail. We are creating something completely new, creating new memories. But always keep the old ones. Creating something new cannot dampen the old memories only add new ones to your library. Why waste old memories when you can create new ones?