A while ago, I sent in a submission to a tumblr called The Burning House, which posts people’s responses to the question “If your house was burning, what would you take with you?” The majority of submissions are from people who, like me, take it as an opportunity to lump a bunch of their favorite things into a pile on the floor — which, I will admit, is actually more closely answering the question “If you had to pack for Burning Man, what would you take with you?”
A few people seem to equate “burning house” with “the apocalypse.” (They are probably also the ones who regularly check the batteries in their smoke detectors.)
Fascinatingly, some people would grab things like deodorant and mascara.
And a few parents just get real.
Tonight, my friend Molly and I started a conversation about Making Plans. (Notice the capitalization, which signifies Importance.) I’m a big fan of Plans — making them, that is. I have tons of Google Docs with titles like “Things to do in NYC” and “Writing retreat planning doc.” In fact, I just created two new Google Docs today.
Molly’s and my latest respective Plans will essentially revolve around moving ourselves upward through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
The pyramid above is a generally accepted summary of Abraham Maslow’s theory about which needs must be met for a person to achieve self-actualization, which is essentially the “full personal potential.” In the pyramid representation, the most fundamental needs form the base of the pyramid. Once those basic needs are met, then an individual can begin thinking about meeting the other needs that move him/her towards the top of the pyramid.
I can say that I’ve managed to nail down the basic physiological needs pretty well. Though honestly I’m a bit confused that “sex” is down there right alongside things like “breathing” and “pooping.” How much sex is enough sex to qualify one as meeting basic physiological needs? But digression aside, generally speaking, I take care of my own physiological needs and regulate my own pH levels like a champ.
That generally leaves me squashed into a combination of the other levels of the pyramid, as I imagine is true of most people. And all joking aside, contemplating Maslow’s hierarchy is pretty thought-provoking. Certainly his hierarchy helps me to organize some of my thinking around goal-setting. I work in different ways to move towards self-actualization on a constant basis — in photography and otherwise — but deep, true, authentic creativity is hard to come by when I’m not yet secure in some of the pieces underneath.
This summer, I’m focusing on allowing myself to lean into my friendships a little bit more. That’s the big thing, but there are also Plans to be made around employment, eating habits, homemaking, and health maintenance. For example, I’ve cut a few things out of my diet, mainly cheese and refined sugars, which I’m sure I’ll mention again here in this blog; and I go to a Total Body Conditioning class headed up by a tiny, immaculately muscled Colombian woman who blasts reggaeton while we all buff the floor with our sweat beginning at 6:30am.
Plans are fun.
I’ve been spending some time this past month building up my Instagram grid (if you have Instagram, you can find me @bonnafied). I’m pretty new to Instagram and feel like I’m just now starting to get a handle on what I can do with it. I spent my first month on Instagram just trying to sort out what filter did what. I started sharing some of my Instagram photos on a carefully edited Tumblr, but my Instagram grid itself was a haphazard scramble of photos, half of which I wanted to delete and didn’t bother to. It took me a month to realize that you could take photos using your regular phone camera and then pull those photos into Instagram to edit, rather than taking photos directly through Instagram. Then it took me another little while to realize that Instagram is a photo-sharing network in and of itself, with a whole community of users who take their Instagram sharing and storytelling very seriously — promoting the iPhone as legitimate photographic tool, with its own set of beauties and limitations, just as with any other kind of camera; promoting iPhone photography as its own medium, with all of the filters and apps attendant to an art form that people take time to master.
This is such a photographic journey, discovering and utilizing all of the tools that are available now to instantaneously share, connect, reach out, and communicate with each other.
As I’ve spent more time on my Instagram feed, I’ve learned a bunch about how people are editing their photos, and seen many different kinds of storytelling. Some people use Instagram like Facebook (fitting, too, now that they’re One), sharing snapshots of meals and friends; some have 100,000 followers and every photo is a small photographic masterpiece. There are those whose photos tell an unfolding, daily story of family life spent in fields and backyards; those who document the ways light plays off of the skyscrapers in Manhattan as they walk to or from work every morning.
I’m also seeing the kinds of photos that people are taking on the iPhone 4. My friend Casey (the one who gifted his old iPhone 3 to me) did warn me about the staggering difference in quality between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 photo resolution. He knew that, as a photographer, I would care about the difference once I realized what the difference was. But it took me a while to realize it; it was a novelty for me simply to take a cell phone photo that didn’t look like I was underwater.
Now that I’m aware of the difference, it’s probably just a matter of time before I upgrade. Yes, I’m thinking about upgrading, two years after the iPhone 4 came out. There’s always a sort of bittersweetness to realizing that I want something better than what I currently have; for a while there, I was practically tucking my iPhone 3 into bed and kissing it goodnight each night… and now my mind is already on to the next shiny thing. But that’s the line that I keep attempting to walk: Do something beautiful with what I have, upgrade when I can, and then keep doing something beautiful.
(Instead of, for example, making a virtue of using low-grade tools, and then making a virtue of refusing to upgrade, and then feeling weirdly resentful and hating my own art and going into a death-spiral and ultimately becoming a nun.)