Tune Into Your Surroundings to Live a Life Enriched

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THE EXCITEMENT of being in a new environment where the sounds, the people, and the feeling are unique.

When I’m sitting in a plane descending upon an unfamiliar city I feel like a kid, joyfully looking down on the bright streetlights below, searching for the heart and soul to soon become lost.

Traveling changes us, as we’re taken out of our comfort zone and forced to use our senses.

This pandemic won’t last forever, and while getting on a plane may not be in the cards for a while, that doesn’t mean we should stop exploring.

Right now is an opportunity to look at your city, your town, even your backyard with the same joy you have while traveling into the unknown.

Photography has changed how I look at our planet — the wilderness, cities, and everything in between.

I’m no technical photographer, but I love nothing more than drifting through a city or nature with no destination in mind and my camera in hand, taking shots of anything which tells a story about where I am.

Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan

When I came across the work of iconic Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama in the book Daido Moriyama: How I Take Photographs by Takeshi Nakamoto, I felt like I stumbled upon the godfather of the style of photography I enjoy so much.

His expertise, however, applies not only to photography and capturing the evanescence of ordinary life.

His lessons connect to our lives now, a photography enthusiast or not, expressing how to perceive the world with all of our senses, no matter where we are.

Moriyama’s photos aren’t always still, are seldom clear, and never perfect. But photography, and life for that matter, don’t have to be perfect.

Born in Osaka, Japan, in 1938, Moriyama grew up roaming the city and taking photos after “a friend sold him a cheap Canon 4Sb,” writes Nakamoto.

Street photography became his legacy. His photos evoke the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, which honors imperfection and the impermanence of all things.

Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things modest and humble, of things unconventional,

writes Leonard Cohen in Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers, which expounds on the Japanese aesthetic as opposed to perfectionism.

Sometimes, a jaw-dropping photo captures the precise second when the sky opens up and shines its light in a way that may never be re-created.

While incredible, this type of photography can seem untouchable.

Moriyama’s photos on the other hand feel real and grounded, as if they say don’t take life too seriously.

Nakamoto writes:

His style is all about capturing the natural movement and expression of whatever you are photographing in that particular moment.

His photos put the viewer in his shoes to recognize not only the experiences that inspire us as humans, but also the moments that make us human: the beauty of daily living and the essence of who we are in the details often overlooked.

Moriyama dedicated himself to street photography, taking photos of “Kobe, Maizuru, Yokosuka, Aami, Misawa, Tono, Hokkaido, Shinjuku, New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, Hawaii, Sao Paulo — a whole variety of places, not only in Japan but all over the world,” writes Nakamoto.

No matter where you are on this rock, the overarching theme to Moriyama’s advice is to get out there.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Just because we can’t travel the globe right now doesn’t mean we can’t explore our neighborhood or our town with joyful curiosity.

The photographer should just shoot whatever he observes, using all his senses, and if possible unselectively,

says Moriyama.

We don’t see only with our eyes.

As you walk through your neighborhood even without a camera, take a breath and tune into your senses. What do you hear when you really listen?

There’s layers of sound we don’t usually tap into, an energy that brings peace to our soul.

The sound of the wind through the trees is nourishing; the stillness recharges our spirit.

A photographer is in tune with their surroundings, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

Many of Moriyama’s photos portray the parts of the day we consider mundane — grocery shopping, waiting for the train, commuting after work.

Moriyama depicts these moments as if in a trancelike state, where the present is neither a dream nor reality.

Perhaps because that’s how we feel.

When we’re truly in the present, open and aware of what’s taking place around us, every second becomes worth valuing.

Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles, CA

When you walk with your head down only thinking of the next thing to do, you miss out on the serendipity a photographer like Moriyama craves.

Try walking at half your normal walking pace when you’re out. Can you feel the age of the buildings when you walk beside them?

Do you notice how your heart rate and your overall disposition change?

When you treat every day as if you’re in a brand new place with a zeal for discovery, you never know what might happen.

Be mindful of the minute details; get in close and stick your nose in a flower. You may look crazy, but perhaps the crazy ones are enjoying life the most.

Making time to do nothing is healthy.

When you slow down, one of the best things that can happen is time will slow down too. When we’re continually moving from one thing to the next, we miss what makes life worth living.

We can’t fall into the trap of living by the clock, always in a rush, then spending our idle moments glued to our phones.

Put the phone down and look around.

Notice how people’s faces change when they’re thinking; share a smile with strangers as they pass by and feel the connection of energy.

When you do this, you own your life and take time back.

Life is always taking place — the goal for the photographer is to study and capture the magic which says something about our collective human experience.

We must all have that same desire, regardless of being a photographer or not. We all desire something — happiness, a partner, a respectable career.

If we want these things, we have to work at them.

In the same spirit, we must desire to make the most of what we’re going through right now by working on ourselves and questioning how we view the world.

We don’t have to go to the other side of the planet to be positively overwhelmed by the energy surrounding us.

It takes effort — yet slowing down and truly living, not merely existing, is something we mustn’t ever stop pursuing.

Get outside and look around. If you want to bring a camera, do it. 

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan
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