Leaving behind a legacy, what does that mean? When you no longer inhabit the physical world, what will your contribution to the world be, how will your existence be defined?
I don’t plan on having children, I’m an only child and have no cousins the same age as me. That means that once I depart the physical world, many moons from now hopefully, there won’t be a wash of people who will remember me, talk about the person I was and the things I did.
A morbid thought you may think, but in fact it’s one that spurs me on to write more, to photograph more, to leave behind a mark on the world that will allow complete strangers to feel as though they knew me.
I guess that was the reason I started a blog all those years ago, as an outlet, but also as a way to document my life to allow my thoughts, beliefs and ramblings to live on past me.
Last Sunday I met with Keith Moss, a renowned street photographer who shoots in black and white and yet manages to bring to life the souls of strangers. I was invited along to a 4 hour session with Keith, in the quite frankly outstandingly beautiful city of York along with a handful of other intrepid, photo snapping bloggers, by Inntravel.
The purpose of the day was simple, learn from the best, soak up every ounce of photography knowledge as possible from Keith, and that is what I was expecting, to leave with a few more skills and a little more confidence. What I left with meant so much more.
After learning all about aperture, shutter speed, depth of field and ISO in the shadow speckled gardens of York Minster, Keith challenged us to put into practice what he had taught us.
In passing though he mentioned that if we wanted some one-on-one advice he would hang around at the cafe we met at. Never one to miss an opportunity to nerd up I suggested I treat him to a coffee in return for some more detailed advice, and that is what I got, although not about photography, about life.
Keith is a complicated character, guarded at first glance and yet he knows more about human behaviour than anyone I’ve ever met. He says he can tell within seconds if a stranger will allow him to take their photo. He knows this from a reciprocated raised eyebrow, or sideways smile. He knows how to read people’s faces because it’s the thing that kept him safe growing up, being able to decipher who might want to do him harm.
So we found a little spot, and sat on the pavements of York and we talked, we talked about life, about love, about leaving a legacy behind and the pain that comes from sharing creativity and not receiving the feedback you want in a world where the admiration and acceptance of others is held in such high regard.
Keith gives no fucks about whether people like his work, and I don’t mean he doesn’t care about his work, far from it. I mean he doesn’t create for the benefit of others, he creates because it’s how he communicates, it’s his currency, it’s what gets him up in the morning.
I’ve felt lost with blogging in the last 6 months, I’ve changed and grown up in a lot of ways and have found my ‘voice’ is apparent less and less in this little corner of the internet. Interestingly I think deep down it boils down to the simple fact I don’t want to talk about mascara and mud masks like they are my passion, I want to talk about life, about sorrow and joy, about learning to live in the best way possible.
When I started Em Globe Trotter, my first travel blog that’s all it was, no product placement or ‘blogger’ pictures, instead honest words poured straight from my heart, through my fingers and into digital reality. It healed me, it helped me grieve, whilst I don’t miss the grief, I missed that feeling of accomplishment that comes from writing something that matters, even if it only matters to me.
I lost myself in comparison, in trying to keep up with the Jones’ of the blogging world. Gone were the witty, sarcastic yet considered words and in their place, sponsored posts, products shot with peonies and marble backgrounds. There’s nothing wrong with blogs who do that, I adore blogs who do that, but I’ve realised that’s not what my place on the internet is for. I want more than that and I want to find a readership who want that for me.
With all this in mind, there will be the odd product post, the odd collaboration with brands, but rather than feel tied to creating content to boost things, I’ll be writing to boost me, my sense of well-being. I’ll be writing to leave behind a legacy, a truthful legacy, that I had words to say about the world, that I wanted to write with the conviction and heart that the authors of books I devour and articles I admire.
Keith realised within moments of speaking to me that I was on the verge of crying whilst stood in those gardens talking about shutter speed. I hadn’t said anything, no one I was with knew that Father’s Day is another day that I try my best to hide away from, but there we were, stood chatting on a day I no longer get to share with my dad, and he knew, his words were simple. He asked me what I loved, I smiled and said my dog and he said
“But you could so easily cry and I know it isn’t because of the love you have for your dog”
How can someone who doesn’t know you, who’s never met you, know enough about you to see through the smiles about my dog and realise that behind it is sadness?
So here is what I learnt
- I don’t want to take ‘blogger’ photos anymore, I want to take photos full of soul and heart that say more than the words that surround them
- For every post I do about a product or brand, I will do three about life, love, culture, travel, things that nurture the soul, more than empty the bank
- I will stop looking at stats, in fact I have removed the statistic dashboard from the front page of the back office of this blog, out of sight out of mind
- Striving for the perfection I perceive in others will never do me any good. So rather than compare, I’m going to do my own thing and be proud of it
Nothing ground breaking it may seem, and yet to me it’s been the start of a wave of change, not only in the way I take photos (I can actually use all the functions on my camera, at last) but they way I write and the mark I leave.
I can’t thank Keith enough, I know he hoped to inspire us creatively and boy did he, but he left a mark on me that has altered me beyond words and for that I can never be grateful enough.
So once the life altering conversation happened I took some rather splendid photos, I’ve started to create a more considered style of photography that I truly hope others will appreciate, but if they don’t fuck it, it makes me happy. Here are just a few of my favourite photos from the day…
I had to end with this fantastic photo of this chap trying to take a selfie with his pooch. I noticed him doing it and asked if he minded me capturing it and he smiled and said he felt a fool but he knew it would make his wife laugh, perfection.