The “slow movement” describes a worldwide cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace. It promotes the practice of slow eating, slow parenting, slow gardening, and many other activities.
So why has this become such a phenomena in many industrialized countries? Because it promotes a healthier lifestyle and enables us to lead healthier lives.
Why is it so important? Why is the way we’re living now not sustainable? The world never slows down. It expects us to keep up by always stepping things up to the next speed rung. As our environment makes these demands on us, and is in a constant state of flux, our basic requirements as a human being always stay the same. We need understanding. We need nearness. We need compassion. We need sharing. These necessities of life cannot happen unless we devote time to them. We are losing our ability to enjoy life. The only way we can reverse this process is to reclaim time. We need to slow down our lifestyles, our work habits, and our collective mindset.
Is it easy to change? No. But it is the perennial gladiatorial battle between being highly productive and being better.
City planners are starting to think that they need to embrace the concept of “slow cities” whereby they incorporate designs that encourage people to walk, to meet, to converse. They create green areas with benches, outdoor patios, coffee shops, and farmer’s markets. They strongly discourage drive-through fast food lanes and promote the use of bicycles by providing rentals and places to safely park them.
Some of the most successful corporations have developed programs that recognize that creativity and quality of work improves when employees are encouraged to “unplug”, to be more goal oriented instead of time crunched. Employees are empowered not by only giving them responsibilities, but by giving them the ability to make real positive change in the way projects are done. They are encouraged to be original thinkers.
Do you want a richer life? Slow down. Smell the roses. Walk. Stop trying to keep up with rigid schedules. Learn to see. Enjoy real conversations. Spend less time on Facebook. Turn off the television. Be more creative.
Modern society dictates that we be productive. But it does so at a cost of rushing, meeting deadlines, lack of quality, more stress, burnout, higher crime rates, family problems, and a belief that material things will make you happy.
So how can all this relate to photography? Enter “Slow Art”. This is the process of being mindful of detail and putting time into your creations. It encourages quality over quantity. It values the history inherent in the art form and always holds learning in high esteem.
Ask yourself how well you know your photography history? Have you ever heard of Alfred Stieglitz, Diane Arbus, or Yousuf Karsh? Or does your learning only go back as far as purchasing your first camera in Walmart? Everyone has to start somewhere, but do yourself a favor…spend less on cameras and more on books, lessons, and webinars. Work slower and more methodical. Don’t be a machine that spews out a production line of sub-standard photos. That old Ben Franklin adage “Time is money” really seems to be the standard with photographers these days.
That’s all fine you’re saying, but I have to earn a living… You can still create a working environment for yourself that is more conducive to allowing your creative juices to flow without driving yourself silly with work. I see many photogs these days not accepting jobs on weekends choosing instead to spend time with their families. Or many are simply charging more money if they have to work on weekends.
But it’s a fast-paced world. I’ve seen photography clients who were only interested in getting their web-sized photos quickly so they could upload them to Facebook, change their profile photo or email them to friends. Carrie Fisher said, “Even instant gratification takes too long.” And I always find it shocking how little modern society seems to value the printed image.
As Carl Honore said, “Get in touch with your inner tortoise.”
Embrace the moment. Seize the day. Slow down. Enjoy your photography clients. Learn something about them. Don’t accept as many jobs. Do better work. Teach them the value of making prints and enjoying an image time and time again.
Portrait of Einstein © Yousuf Karsh