It's a relatable but unusual title for an article. However, I'm sure you might have an idea of which direction this is going to go: photography as therapy.
This therapy for myself, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this, is to provide the silence I so crave. Being able to stand on a windy day and hear the wind blowing through the trees. To hear the rushing water from the river cascading over the waterfall and plunging to the depths below. To stand on a deserted beach with no wind and only gentle waves lapping at the shoreline. Yes, all this reeks of romantic overtones, and I apologize for this, but to hear all of this without interruption would be absolute bliss.
"So, what are you talking about," I hear you ask. Many, many years of rock concerts and loud music have taken a toll on my hearing and in my case, have caused tinnitus, a constant high-pitched ringing in my ears. All the time, which I can't stress enough. It can be handy in some cases when you reply with a sorry I missed that, during a conversation, if you really didn't want to reply. Or when sometimes, my partner asks: "why are you sitting in a silent room with no music or background tv on?" To which I reply that the room is not silent, though it would be bliss if it was. Recording videos for YouTube has had its consequences as well. When I posted a few videos online, unaware of the interference the light I was using at the time was creating with my mic, the comments were interesting to read, shall we say. But that's a lighter, more jovial look at it.
Ok, so what's that got to do with photography? It's estimated that around 30% of people worldwide will experience tinnitus at some point in their life. For myself, thinking back, I've suffered from it for around six years constantly, but it is something that you learn to live with. I'm lucky it's only tinnitus I have, and I am aware of and grateful for that fact. So, this is where photography comes in. This is my release from it, and only over the past year or so have I noticed this. Other sufferers of tinnitus will have their releases, but for me, it's the practice of photography: not the teaching or the editing of the images, not the scouting for locations, but the actual process of creating the image. Weird, I know, but I can nearly pinpoint it to the removal of the camera bag from my back. I've put a link at the bottom of this article to the nearest frequency to the noise I hear all the time, just in case you are curious.
My release comes in the form of focus, if you'll forgive the pun. As soon as I go through the motions of taking off the backpack to get everything set up, I am no longer aware of the high-pitched ringing. Yes, it's still there, but I am no longer aware of it. As I type this article, with the Foo Fighters playing away in the background, I still hear it. And I'm focused on writing this article. So, for me, it's a strange one. Why only when I'm taking photographs does it seem to subside? It can't simply be that I'm not focusing on the task at hand, as I am focused on completing this. Why only the act of photography?
A Deafening Silence
Am I overthinking this? Well yes, probably, as I am grateful I don't notice it when in the process of capturing the images, and the deafening silence that accompanies it is a welcome relief. Well, it's not really a deafening silence; that's slightly misleading. But to me, it feels like one. I can hear the backpack unzipping, no interruptions, the tripod legs extending, no interruptions, the camera being attached to the tripod, no interruptions, the wind in the trees... you get the idea. The focus of the process dissipates my acknowledgment of the tinnitus, and that is truly is a welcome relief.
Apart from the absolute love of the practice of photography, it's mental health therapy in its own right. The release from the constant ringing and the deafening silence it brings is such a much-needed therapy for me. I'm sure I'm not the only one. To be able to hear the surrounding environment uninterrupted, whatever that may be, is pure and utter bliss.
To this end, I wanted to create a video that was about the process and the surrounding environment, trying to capture as much of the landscape's sounds as I could. I did manage some, and the wind, in particular, was one that I wanted to ensure stayed right through the video. I didn't want to add any Foley, as that would have not been true to the situation. Yes, it would have probably improved the overall feel of the video, but I wanted it to be as natural as possible.
I did add a soundtrack, as I thought that five minutes of environmental sounds were a little too much for the viewers. In saying that, though, some of my favorite videos do just that: record the environment and show the process.
Let me know in the comments below if you suffer from tinnitus and if it dissipates during the process of image-making.
Sound source nearest to my tinnitus.