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30 Days of Batis 2/40 CF
A Batis adventure and a personal photography scratch book with a creative touch.
Sharing a new post every day for the next 30 days.




Day #27 – memento mori

Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF – f/4, 1/40sec, ISO1600, raw Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

Sony A7 & ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF – f/4, 1/40sec, ISO1600, raw
Photograph by Toni Ahvenainen

I'm not going to lie to you and say that it's always easy to go out with camera, be inspired and scan for new pictures. Carrying the camera is not difficult part, it's the inspiration. In fact, over the years I've observed that most photographers go through different phases of inspiration and they retain a certain internal struggle to keep it alive – especially the everyday life and its repetition can easily kill the high expectations for photography. Therefore, many photographers only take their camera out for vacations, trips, parties and such.

I'm not different from any other and I'm having that internal struggle as well, but camera can also be a very strong way to approach the mundane. I like to remind myself often that the camera obscura and the latent image produced to photosensitive material by the exposure are a kind of physical miracles that allow us to explore our life from a different point of view. A striking example of this is an old picture that is put on the wall at my parents home. It's my mother sitting on a edge of a water well as a three years old small child. Not only can I see how she has a certain kind of dress and that her hair is plaited, but also how she squints there in the sunshine while looking me straight in the eyes through the photograph – the picture was taken at 1950s. At the background there are clothes lines in the forest and some gravel in the ground, and it makes me think 'at some particular summer day in a place with no significant meaning to the rest of world all this really existed as I see them now'. For me it's a fascinating thought because I kind of belong to that same continuum as my mother had me at the age of 23 at 1976.

I've tried to put this lesson to work in my own photography and I photograph the mundane things because I want to 'collect' those moments and be able to see things that existed in my life – particularly the family photo documentary is close to my heart. This has had a tremendous effect on my life because with the help of photographs I've learned to see my life from a different point of view and to appreciate the temporal nature of life. In short, photographing the mundane helps me to remember that someday I will die – 'respice post te, hominem te esse memento, memento mori' (look behind and remember thou art mortal, remember you must die). The point of this reminder isn’t to be morbid or to promote fear, but to inspire, motivate and clarify my photography, even in the middle of mundane moments. I get to live these vanishing moments, so I should seize into them and make my best out of them – because someday I'll be just a mute shape recorded by the light on the surface of a photograph. For me the camera is a physical reminder to keep the thought of death with me at all times. It helps me to break through the mundane and see what is really important in my life. And for me, this sort of existential stance on photography and a mission it gives me, is finally the ticket that makes me take that camera with me again when going out, even if it feels a bit difficult from time to time.