I was saying to a friend a few weeks ago that I was struggling to find inspiration to do my own thing. Where my camera used to live in the palm of my hand, it was now relegated to the depths of a backpack that only left the house for work. It’s not that I ever lost my love of photography, I just felt exhausted by the constant work. The editing, the social media, the emails, the accounting, the marketing, the justifying, constant justifying.
Despite Italy’s long history of fine art and beautiful culture, Italians still don’t see the arts as a ‘proper’ job. Talented teenagers are convinced to go to the science schools, and the reply to ‘I’m a photographer’ is never not, ‘oh so you’re a student then?’ I’ve been asked why I don’t just get a job in a bar, where pay is €6 per hour. The easy reply is I’m not allowed to under my visa, they reply I may as well change it now anyway – there’s no money in having your own business, as if life is made of paychecks, carefully calculated and periodically handed out.
Somewhere along the way, I let the pressures of immigration, of well-meaning bystanders, of my adopted conservative culture, get under my skin. I let their voices stand out louder than the culture-filled walls of my city. The endless exhibitions, the frescoes painted into building facades, the whacky, creative, breathtaking design that is woven into the messy tapestry that is Milan, suddenly became quiet, and the well-meaning criticisms and questions grew louder.
But my palm was getting itchy. The camera that belonged there had been missing for too long. So when I came back to Perth, I resolved to drag it out with me. To cart it around in my backpack, the one that leaves the house every day, a heavy weight reminding me what was missing. And then, just hours after telling my friend that I’d lost my inspiration, inspiration found me.
We were standing on the beach, lungs heaving after being battered by waves at Floreat Beach, when I looked over at another friend holding her not-quite-three-year-old in her arms. The sun lit them up as saltwater dripped from their hair, and every time a wave lapped at Sarah’s feet, Alexa laughed with utter delight. It was infectious. It was beautiful. The unfiltered, unencumbered joy of a child and the way it rippled out to those around her.
Within moments my camera was out of my bag and into my salty hands. I didn’t even mind the water droplets that rolled over its thick, plastic case. I gazed through the viewfinder and it was like the air had been knocked back into my chest. I remembered my why, I found my joy, all thanks to the delighted screams of a child to whom the world is nothing but art, nothing but new, nothing but one big playground to explore.
Photos feat. some wonderful people who make my life better, always. Thank you Matt, Sarah, Jinn & Alexa for reminding me why I do what I do and always having your door open. It means the world.