Thoughts on how to live and the flower sellers of Chitchecastenango, Guatemala. 1983

My new lens has just arrived. It’s a 50mm to 150mm f2.8 and it’s the closest lens I could afford to my old 135mm f2.8 Nikkor lens that I loved and used so much back in the days when I shot film. I’m going to Europe for three months in 9 days and I’m particularly looking forward to using my new lens to take photos of people on the street like I used to, years ago.

A very wise old friend of mine, the composer Edward Arteaga, once said to me, “if you want to kill your love for something, study it”.

I first took up photography when I was about 14 and for years I had dreams of working in the photographic industry. Years later when I was 30 I went to Art College for 4 years to study photography and then I went on to be a photographic assistant for 2 years to one of the best commercial photographers in Australia.

I got to see what it was like at the top of the game. Lot’s of grinding work, long hours, high stress and frightening overheads. After a while I realised that I was being turned off photography and of trying to make a living from it. In the early 1990s, I totally lost interest in photography and in particular, commercial photography. I’d come to the conclusion that it was a cosmically worthless profession and I didn’t want to be involved with it any more. I put my cameras down and didn’t take any photos for about 15 years. It’s only recently that I’ve returned to photography.

I was talking to a friend of mine, Mark, the other day about the cabinet that I made recently and he said, “why don’t you become a cabinet maker?”

I replied, “I don’t want to do that because it would take all the fun out of it and turn it into a grind”.

Mark then said to me, “you are such a waste of talent, you’re good at whatever you turn your hands to (flattering but untrue), but you choose not to continue on with things”.

I explained that the only reason why I do any thing is because it’s the only way I can get what I want at a reasonable cost. If want a schmick cabinet, I have to make it myself.

If I want nice food, I have to cook it myself and the same goes for photography.

People are constantly saying to me, “why don’t you do, such and such for a living, you’re so good at it”. The trouble with me is that I can quite easily visualize where such things lead. In short, I know it would kill my love for whatever is that I like doing. 

I don’t want to specialise, I’m a generalist.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is actually important in my life and how do I want to live to be happy. I keep coming back to Epicurus.  Epicurus thought that there were three types of desires.

  1. Natural and necessary: Such as, freedom, friendship, food shelter and freedom from pain.
  2. Natural but not necessary: A big house and other luxuries.
  3. Not natural or necessary: Fame and power.

 If you’re interested in what Epicurus has to say about happiness here’s some a good video (in three parts) by Alain de Botton.

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts on how to live and the flower sellers of Chitchecastenango, Guatemala. 1983”

  1. Vanille

    Thanks for the compliment.

    I’ll be landing in Paris in 9 days. I hope any shots I take in France don’t make you home sick. Then again, perhaps I should take photos of bad things there, to make sure you don’t!

  2. Nice post. I always think about trying to do photography for a living, but change my mind about it all the time. Your post is very helpful. Maybe I should bookmark it and come back to read it every time I think it might be time for a career change.

  3. Dave

    There’s always a big gap between dreams and reality. Sometimes the dream is better than manifestation of it. For me, any kind of occupation begins to pall after a few years and that’s why I think I’ve had so many different kinds of jobs. Needless to say, there are pros and cons to all decisions.

  4. Ok. I read this blog entry yesterday and have been thinking about it for 24 hours.


    New lenses make me inordinately over the top crazy happy.

    I cannot wait to see the next three months through your new lens even though it’s not my new lens.

    Can you fill in the blank to this…

    I’m never happier than when I am …………………….

    When I answer this question it helps me know who and what is important in my life.

    As you know, I’m currently trying to figure out how to market some of these answers. I won’t be able to buy 10 watches like the boy in the video. But, as God is my witness…oh, I better not invoke a diety I don’t believe in….As Canon is my witness, I shall buy new lenses till the bitter end!!

  5. Pat

    “I’m never happier than when I am …………………….”

    Totally and wholeheartedly in the moment. Being here, now.

    You know, sometimes it just strikes me. I find myself in a heightened state of consiousness, I look around and everything seems so much more 3D, clear and vibrant. It’s at times like those, that I know I’m on the right track. It’s even better when such moments are shared.

    Glad you liked the shot.

  6. I don’t care enough to do anything 100% for great periods of time: I’m a generalist too I guess … or have no focus … or am looking somewhere else all the time … or nowhere at the same time.

    The “you should” crowd have their point, but “Life Attention Deficit Disorder” is more interesting.

  7. Planetross

    It always amazes me that people can have “careers” or that they can say that they are something in terms of a profession, like, “I’m a carpenter”.

    I’ve never thought that one’s choice of how to make a living should really matter in how we live for the rest of the time we aren’t working.

    I also find it amazing that other people can remain focused on something for so long that they do it all their lives. Good luck to them, it’s just something I’m unable to do. I guess some people would say I’m Scatter brained .

    “Hi, my name is Razzbuffnik and I have L.A.D.D.”

  8. The photo of the women is fantastic. I love the brightly coloured clothes the women in that area of the world wear. The photo just reminded me of a Nicaraguan family I knew in Victoria many years ago

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