The Lens Of Mental Bliss

Todd Brown | 9 Jun 2020
The Lens Of Mental Bliss

I never feel happier than when I am creating something. I never feel healthier than when I am exercising, and I never feel more mentally active than when I am learning and discovering the magic of new cultures. I have found that my ticket to all of these feelings lies in my camera: I have been shooting photography since I was 10 years old – in other words, for over 30 years.

I am a street photographer, and through photography, I find my mental bliss. As I become a bit older and hopefully a bit wiser, I am excited to share my philosophy behind why I derive such benefit from this.

The camera as a passport to others

The beauty of the camera is the places it can take you. I love to photograph people living their lives around the world; I want to capture the ordinary activities that fill their days – eating, praying, loving, teaching, working, enjoying the company of others, exploring..

With my camera in hand, I feel as if I have a passport to wander around the streets of a place that is not my own, to peer into the doorways and learn about how other people live their lives. I love to discover monks praying in pagodas, or join a group of Chinese men playing chess, or watch ladies doing their laundry on their balconies, seeing Thai families enjoying street food, or craftspeople in windows or open doors, working on textiles. 

With my camera in hand, I have an excuse to meditate on the ordinary lives of others. My goal is to capture life in a beautiful, respectful way that cherishes both the differences among people around the world, and the similarities between them. And all this within the context of the architecture and uniquely different urban landscapes around the world. 

I am essentially looking for moments that encapsulate a people, a time, a place. Through this journey I am able to learn about the religions of the world, the customs, the foods, the games, the family traditions of wherever it is I am wandering.

The camera as a tool for creativity

As I wander the streets of new places, I am constantly looking for new angles. I explore through my viewfinder, seeking to find the coolest shot, the most interesting, the one that tells the story the best. Using light, angles and depth of field, I try to make something beautiful but also meaningful. I want to share with my viewer what it might be like to walk these streets, to meet these people – and I am trying to do it in the most compelling way possible. 

As I explore foreign cities, I fixate on how different buildings look, how differently the vehicles move through, how throngs of people cascade through the streets. I am looking for creative ways of sharing what I see, and in this comes the mental bliss. Finding that shot, that image, that moment which says it all with one click...that’s the pay-off.

The camera as a path to fitness

With my camera, like a pet on a leash, I can easily walk 20km in a day, or even more. When I visit New York City, I wake up at 6:30am and head out onto the streets, not returning home until 8pm. 

Each new street is a new opportunity to capture something meaningful, each new city is a creative challenge and a chance to learn new things. With photography, the only way to really do all this is on your feet. You have to walk – a lot. It provides me with the best opportunity to capture something magical. 

I am still young, and with my camera in hand, I plan to stay young. It allows me to keep my mind creatively sharp and constantly learning, all while staying fit through walking, walking, walking.

I can’t imagine a life without street photography: it is simply too great a benefit. I hope you too can experience the mental bliss of wandering the streets with your camera. Perhaps, one day, it will be you who sees me through your viewfinder.

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About the author
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Todd Brown

Todd Brown is a photographer and has worked in more than 40 countries on five continents over the last 15 years, for clients that include Unicef, Amnesty International and Medicines Sans Frontiers.

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