deliberate delayed gratification

A year and a half ago, I snagged two disposable cameras. I sent one to someone I was getting to know as she embarked on building a new home in Salt Lake City and I kept one for myself as I headed off to return to San Diego. In the letter that accompanied the disposable camera, I explained how I thought it might be fun for her to take pictures of her new home in such a delayed way as that’s often how restarting feels. You never know how something might turn out — the coffee shop around the corner may hold no meaning now but in a few months could be so dear to you. I first had this happen when I moved to San Francisco and was living on 22nd and Guerroro. One morning, I headed off to try a new coffee shop and within a few blocks had turned right into a part of town I remembered exploring on my first visit to the city. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to go back to my past self as she sat there and explain that one day she’d be living just around the corner. These moments have only increased with the years and miles added onto my life.

By pausing to capture the newness with film, I was hoping it might encourage a sense of optimism and adventure in exploring. In return, I did the same with San Diego as I was moving into a brand new apartment. It genuinely helped and, ever since, I’ve seemingly always had a disposable camera I’m working my way through typically tucked away into a jacket pocket.

I have a new rule when playing with disposable cameras though: any picture I take with them must be the only one I have. No pulling out my phone or my “nice” camera. I had to implement this after I got a roll back only to find that nearly half of the pictures were ones I also took with my nice camera. Sadly, this ruined the intent of what I was trying to do and was the impetus behind this new rule. I wanted to be preserve the surprise and the almost desperation in getting my hands on the photos.

Now getting photos back feels even more exciting especially since a good chunk of the time I forgot what I shot since it can take me weeks if not months to use up the camera. This last week, I got a roll back just as I turned in another camera to be developed. I was so used to waiting to see the photos that I got to my car and nearly forgot to dig into the little package of photos I had in my possession.

The above is hands down my favorite of the series. The beauty of this photo is that, even if I tried, it would be damn hard to replicate this scene. I was walking into a friend’s house in Durham, NC looking around for Dexter (the cat) when he poked his head out. I snapped this unsure if he was even in the frame when I did so! The fact that you can only see a single eye amidst this sea of red just pulls me in. It feels like a forbidden scene as if I need to get Dexter’s consent to share it. There’s a sense of vulnerability in it.

I have about five pictures of Baxter, the dog pictured above, on this latest developed roll and this is by far my favorite of him. I took this at the Dog Beach in San Diego and remember vividly thinking that this would be a horrendous photo. He moves around so much and I don’t quite know how we got him to be still for this. It genuinely looks like he’s sticking his tongue out at me in a fit of silliness. What I love most about this photo though is the sand beneath his paws creating little indents in the sand (check his front left paw).

This photo nearly looks like it’s in black & white but it’s the effect of a winter day in Northern California. I was on a road trip with friends in November as we slowly made our way through mountain passes with a heavy layer of fresh snow. Being raised in Florida has firmly solidified a deep amazement for literally any winter scene. I forced us to pull over numerous times just so I could get out of the car to soak it all in. At some point, I took this picture trying to capture the fairy tale feel of the scenery. On second glance though, it better captures the sleepiness of that weekend — we were all so sleep deprived.

Practicing deliberate delayed gratification in this ever increasing on-demand world is such an insightful challenge that’s teaching me to let go, be in the moment, and still take the shot even if it’ll take weeks/months for me to see it. It’s intimidating to snap a shot when you only have so many and you go through so much to get it back. It’s forcing a level of confidence in me that I love particularly when I pull out my X100F to take photos now.

One comment

  1. Love this post. Delayed gratification is a great mirror to show us who we really are and act. It’s always been a mainstay in Zen, Shamanistic principles, and all the arts. What a wonderful thing to see!
    Be well in these interesting times.

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