Does anyone besides me shut down the verbal brain when making pictures?
Ctein talks about a mental on-switch in The Online Photographer, and I know just what he means. He says:
I’ve got a photographer inside my head. That “me” isn’t the same “me” who is writing this column. It’s a mental faculty I can turn on and off at will, quite literally as easily as flipping a mental switch. I flip it on and I’m in “photography mode.”
But time and again, I discover (generally in an embarrassing lapse of social custom) that I cannot speak coherently while shooting. Don’t ask me anything more complicated than “what time is it?” if I’m composing. Words don’t form, much less sentences. I can barely name the thing I want out of my bag. Appparently, I can visualize and verbalize, but not at the same time. Step back from the tripod and mentally refocus a second, and I’m back to a functioning member of society. I can switch, but not multitask. The one exception is interacting with a subject, which requires an order of magnitude more mental energy. I’ve watched and admired other photographers who can carry on a conversation with by-standers while shooting, but it’s just not in my skill set. Odd, but not a problem, so long as I remember it’s normal for me. Own it, use it and move on.
I photograph precisely because I like the perceptual shifts I experience in the visualization process. It’s good exercise to stay in “on-mode” even when the camera is in the bag. Visualizing while sorting laundry, or getting soda at 7-11. Kind of like other forms of exercise. I know it’s good for me, and I should do more of it. The camera allows/encourages/forces a new way of seeing, but it’s not essential, any more than a poet needs a pen to craft a poem. It helps though.