Documenting life

By Axel
5 min read
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Throughout my life I have had an on-and-off fascination with photography as a medium. I have some early memories of getting a camera when I was somewhere around eleven. It was a film camera, and I really didn't understand how it worked. I think I took some snaps of random objects and such. It never amounted to anything and I am not even sure if they have been preserved anywhere.
In my teens my dad got a DSLR, a Canon 5D to be precise, that I would sometimes borrow. It was big, heavy, and had a huge zoom lens that I suppose was part of the starter package. I didn't really know anything but once again I borrowed it at times; this time it was mostly for specific projects.
The last period (before recent memory) was when I started studying design at university and was told that it was essential that I knew how to operate a camera. This was the first time I actually learned more about how to operate a camera, as well as how to take decent photos. It was at this time I bought a DSLR for myself; the body is actually used by my wife still! My fascination here didn't really hold up this time either.

Fuji X-T5 w/ 35mm f2.0

In hindsight I have identified two problems that have stood between me and a camera.

  1. The weight, size, and bulk of a DSLR.
  2. I just didn't see a point in taking photos.

The latter of the two is something I think my wife changed for me. The entire time I have known her she has carried a heavy DSLR with her, taking photos of what's happening around her. There's a bit of a purpose to it, she makes a photobook every year, but she also just likes to document things that happen to look back on them.

Over the years I think that has rubbed off on me. I now look back at travels we did together—Japan, road-trip through Nevada, Italy—and I feel like I missed out by not having a camera. By not properly documenting things around me except random snapshots with my phone. Don't get me wrong, I am well aware that you can take great photos on a phone, but a phone also lends itself to quick snapshots most of the time.

This feeling of FOMO I got from those travels gnawed at my mind for a few years and I think it spawned a desire to take better photos, take greater care of composition and subject matter. I can actually pinpoint a singular photo that lit this desire within me. It was one I took of my wife after we had forged our engagement rings. It's not a great photo—neither is it bad—and it proved to me that maybe I could do better.

For years I had been teasing my wife lightly about bringing a camera everywhere and taking photos; now I was the one that kind of wanted to do the same. It started slow, because I didn't really want to admit it to myself, and I took maybe one or two photos every few months where I tried to frame things better. I was, of course, limited by my phone a bit—I didn't want to carry the big DSLR!

It built up and after a year I decided I would take some photos during my daily lunchtime walk, perhaps one photo per day, and see where that got me. It never was a photo per day; but it did reinforce my feeling of "I can do this." The interest really took hold and I would more actively document my surroundings and life. It all culminated in our honeymoon where I decided I would try to push the iPhone XS camera as much as I could.

What I found was that I really enjoyed it, but at the same time found it lacking. I think it was at this time I started researching cameras, although I had been wanting one of my own for at least a year or two already.

In my search I learned that cameras had evolved from when I last looked at them, 9 years prior, and I could potentially get something much smaller. I resolved to hold off a bit longer and mull it over, especially since I had just gotten a new iPhone and I wanted to test its camera as well.

This last summer I felt like I had had enough of waiting and I seriously looked for a camera. I went to stores and tried holding some. I looked at reviews and videos. And I bought one in late September. This fall, and winter, I have used it ever so often and I have found great enjoyment in it.

Some of my favorite moments this fall has been just walking around Stockholm, listening to an audio-book, and documenting what's happening around me. It helped me, for the first time in years, let go of my phone for a few hours at a time (I needed my right hand for the camera!). I just turned on do not disturb and entered a zen state of mind.

Going into 2024 I am looking to continue with these walks. I do have a fascination with light and shadows; so perhaps it will have to wait until we have more sun here in the north. Another stretch goal is to perhaps make a physical progress book in September. Just for myself to select my favorite images of the year and see my own personal progress.

What I have yet to solve is whether or not I want to share the photos. For a while I did on Instagram, but that platform is just sort of dead to me. It felt like a chore to upload and that's not what I want. This doesn't feel right either, because it's not a great platform for sharing continually. Perhaps I will re-work the photos section to align with the photo book, as in showing the best ones. It is a problem to tackle in 2024, but I am in no rush.

I take photos for my sake, not to share them.

Images are cropped, click to view them in full.