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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Live the life you are given

I take photos to document my path through my life. It gives me a good feeling to find a great view and enjoy it, and take it home to look at again in the form of a photograph.

I take pleasure in composing and exposing a photo well. It gives me pleasure to go through the process of transforming a raw image into a final, edited version; to produce a photo which echoes what I imagined I saw when I looked through the viewfinder.

Not many people come to look at the end results. I don’t have many “followers” on social media and those who have chosen to subscribe and see my updates don’t, for the main part, comment or interact with the entries. I wonder, sometimes, why that is, when so many others take shit photos and then get hundreds and hundreds of stamps of approval. I upload photos to photo sharing websites and I think that they’re usually interesting and of a high overall standard. But no-one ever buys any. In the past ten years, I’ve sold less than a dozen images.

This bothers me, often, until I remember the statistics. Sixty million new photos land in Instagram every day, posted by 500 million users. 85 million of them are following Kim Kardashian, and they all get something completely different from Instagram than I do.

I get the pleasure of taking a photo, editing it, sharing it with people who have chosen to be interested in the photos I take. Many of them don’t get to see the views that I do, and look forward to seeing the places I’m lucky enough to visit.

I came to the realization some time ago that people have their own taste, and many people’s taste is, to the eyes of others, awful. I made a negative comment once that a proposed idea for a photo was overly stereotypical, to which the photographer said, “but I like stereotypes”.

Each to his or her own. Not everything I like has to be admired by everyone and I don’t have to like something which others admire. My only insistence is that what I do for myself has to be something that I like.

Walking along the peaceful, sunny, riverside path at lunchtime instead of listening to moronic “humorous” audio clips at a lunch table, when the humour comes from a national in-joke to which I, as an outsider, am not privy.

Spending an hour in the cold, enjoying a sunny view and waiting for a glimpse of an old-fashioned plane which may or may not be due to fly past. Hiking for a couple of hours to get to an aesthetically “perfect” viewpoint, from which I can take a photo of a mountain valley. Thousands of people take photos of a similar view through the scratched plastic windows of the cable car, and are perfectly happy with them.

I heard earlier of a programmer who works as a cleaner, because his eyesight is failing and he couldn’t afford the specialist treatment which would make it better. He will lose his sight altogether in the next few years.

A guy ran the local corner shop near here. He took it over with his wife from his father. It was his dream to run a corner shop, working alongside his beloved wife. Then his wife suddenly died with no warning at a young age. He closed the shop and left a letter stuck to the window, saying that his life-long dream had died along with his wife, and he had left to try and work out what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

After several unhappy jobs, my sister started her own business, built up a great reputation and group of friends and colleagues, became more and more successful. Then she was diagnosed with cancer and died at the age of 35.

Life is often unfair and life is short. You don’t know what cards you’re going to be dealt. I won’t be so trite as to write “live every moment as if it’s your last”, but live your life with as few regrets as you can. Have goals, have aspirations, aim for things and do as much as you can to be happy without hurting other people.

If you like taking photos, spending hours editing them, and then sticking them on the internet, do that. Do it for yourself, though, and not to get the approval of others. Because you’re battling with millions and millions of other people for attention, and in the long run, making yourself happy is the only path worth following.