Time Clicks By

I started to write the following several months ago late last year over a year ago while in Korea and I never spent the time to edit and post it so I’m here to remedy that. I have since added quite a bit to the original passage and have been editing it off and on for several months over a year. Upon reading it again I fear I come across as a little self indulgent, I mean, how many adjectives and metaphors do I need to contemplate time and passion anyway? This and it jumps around a bit thematically, but hey, this is my space to connect with others and commiserate so lets dig into being a creative without time to be creative:

Time clicks by, marches forward, tip toes along, sprints ahead, whatever it does, it’s doing it. I have only been here in Korea for a few short days out of the three weeks I have available here but I already feel it slipping by so quickly. Every moment of peace in the breeze or rush behind a camera as I find something to shoot leaves me wanting to pause and hold on as long as possible to the feeling of untainted joy. While traveling away from home I have been seeking out moments of stillness to take advantage of my mental freedom.

Impossibly simple things have become immense in scope and sighs of peaceful contemplation feel endless and satisfying. For instance, I caught myself spending time staring out the window of YoungDoo’s old room in her parents home considering nothing more than light hitting the drapes in just such a way. Another day I found myself watching a rotary fan they bought to help with the late summer heat slowly survey the room.

It felt so good to not worry about life’s constants. Being able to stare at a fan turning its head for a few solitary minutes without a lingering worry that there is something else that needs my attention is true bliss. Turns out, heaven is the ability to watch a fan blade spinning round and round with a clear mind to consider its spinning. Odd to imagine that an oscillating fan is just what I needed in that moment. I have started to embrace how good it feels to focus on one single thing in the present moment. It clears my mind and brings me peace, even if just for a few minutes.

I remember younger moments in my life when I would recognize the act of blinking or breathing to the point where I thought I may never be able to live another second without being acutely aware of such innate, automatic details of being alive. Thinking about it now I realize it was a sort of accidental meditation, something that happened intuitively when I was younger but have come to realize often escapes my daily routine now that I am older. Getting lost in a single thought or idea, imaginary or otherwise, is an essential part of learning how to be aware of our surroundings and I think it’s important to hold onto it as long as we can.

For some reason, as adults, we pretend to have answers for all of the “whys” that we asked when we were children. We let ourselves get trapped in the belief that we know anything at all when in fact we as individuals know very little and in our wise old walk of arrogance we loose sight of the moon in the night sky. Sometimes it’s important to allow the full breadth of the world humble us and I often find myself forgetting to find time in my mind to embrace this.

I’m not trying to transcend to a place of spiritual awakening or anything so dramatic. I just want to be able to find a way to relax and become free in any given moment again, not just while traveling away from the clear and present stress of work and home. I want to get lost in the rhythm of my own breath again, a skill that I have let slip through my fingers unknowingly. What is the secret to time and understanding its erratic language?

The philosophy of time is one of my oldest curiosities. Time is a constant itch, nagging with every perceived regret or lost opportunity. It eludes me. Connecting with the present moment is precious but fleeting. It feels this way because of desire, fear, anxiousness, insecurity. Want always gets in the way of falling deeply into any moment. Want being the collected embodiment of modern living; What just happened, what does person think about it, and how does my opinion differ, will this thing make me happy, for how long? With this deeply embedded need to know and want, how to turn the bliss of one peaceful moment into a life of meaning and content is something I am increasingly trying to understand, at least on a manageable level.

I wish I had the answer to share with all of you but I don’t think there is one answer to the question of time. We all need to find our own definition by looking at its weight and value in our own individual lives through personal reflection. Could this be one of the keys to happiness? I think that coming to terms with time passing and the change it stoically drags along in tow is a monumental step toward allowing ourselves to embrace happiness in a pure form, free from the baggage of worry, regret, anticipation, jealousy… Come to think of it, I think what I am trying to describe here in all this esoteric rambling, is the importance of meditation.

I feel like by embracing time as a kind of energy, as sustenance, as something that matters, I am able to respect the insurmountable responsibility it shoulders day to day. I imagine time wishes it could be swift and lighthearted but carrying the burdens of all life and infinite possibility must be a daunting and thankless job. Those who don’t consider the effects of time enough to respect it are most likely too engrossed in the minutiae of life to see the forest through the trees.

This is why I love photography, not as a distraction or even a form of art a lot of the time, but as a way to collect these elongated moments of meditation and file them away to either rediscover later in life or as a means to share with others and collectively marvel at details buried all around us. I love it as a way to somewhat permanently attempt to, with deft hand, capture the kind of poetic light which may otherwise escape from my life unnoticed and unappreciated. At last to the best of my ability. Photography is my meditation, my ode to time.

Unfortunately I have been carrying a sort of writers block lately that I am trying to shake. I catch myself in a loop of discovering then loosing moments of genuine creativity. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised and because it is so tightly linked with my sense of personal happiness I find myself waking up to days feeling as though a part of me is missing. Even when I carry a camera by my side; I spot moments I want to capture yet struggle to connect with the light in the same way I once did. I miss the raw enthusiasm that I felt during a period of my life when all I had was time to consider light and explore the nuance of my surroundings. This makes me wonder though, where then is the passion I so often assume I am full of? Where is that endless well of creative poetry when I need it?

My creative pendulum doesn’t swing indefinitely in the direction of prolific inspiration. The landscape of my creative output has had its fair share of flatlined tracts of time. This has gotten to the point in the past couple of years where it has significantly effected my mood. There are days when I feel lopsided and unable to focus on work or life at home and I seem distant, or even sick, to friends and family. I feel an emotional void when I don’t have time to create or focus closely on creating. This could be through writing, taking photographs, exploring a new place, making or listening to music, reading, or even simply sitting down in silence for a time. When I don’t find time to create I feel exhausted, drained physically and emotionally and it effects my life in negative ways.

For years I have talked about the passion, drive, and joy that photography brings to me. Yet the more time that passes the more I understand that passion is not innate, it is earned and nurtured with time and experience. While a spark of inspiration may eventually lead to true passion, patience and dedication is the real key. Passion is a mental space where the past, present, and future all collide and as with creativity, it needs to be fed to stay alive. So recently I have been using the past specifically as a means to feed my passion and creativity. I have started to dig through old film photographs and consider who I was and the emotional state that lead me to connect to different points of view.

Combing through books of old photos shot with film cameras pulls me right back into the emotive center of different parts of my life and helps me understand how my emotional wellbeing has effected my creative output through the years. My state of mind has long dictated the way I view the world behind a camera. Passion grew from a desire to capture what I was feeling and then nurtured by spending time exploring the ways film photography complimented my point of view.

While poking around in the past there are some memories that cut deeper than others. Some periods of life that I look back on and wonder how I let myself get in that particular position. Memories that linger somewhere between regret and acceptance. There was a time when I let life lead me wherever it seemed to want me to go. Decisions were generally more passive and because I chose to drift along this way I would find myself totally lost. These haunting periods lead me to learn things that I would have never learned otherwise and I am thankful for that at least. I did take initiative enough to transform this feeling into action and took a metaphorical “lost” and turned it outward by getting physically lost as well by traveling a lot more often.

In being this way for so long I started to embrace the feeling and over time the idea of being lost became something of a mantra in my life. I started to feel like the only time I felt truly happy was when I was creative and my creative spirit seemed interlinked with possibly misguided notion so I continued to take chances and follow my intuition almost to a fault. I discovered clarity feeling distant from things I found familiar and predictable. The instability of not quite knowing where my next steps would lead me opened my eyes to the simplicity of beautiful things but this was a double edged sword. The mental white noise of unknown places and languages became a creative crutch and I now feel its absence when that emotional knot in my stomach felt as I got into something over my head becomes more of a limited resource.

Even still, I look at these “lost” years as my most intuitive creatively because, in some sense, I felt comforted by my hopelessness, or at least thats what I had convinced myself at the time. It seemed as though that angst somehow drove my desire to create but I now realize it is the physical act of traveling to new places that is at the core of this artistic entanglement and it’s what I miss the most when I am not able to make time for it.

The impact travel has had on my life has been nothing short of immense. The places I have been and the people that shaped these journeys made a permanent mark on my personality and the way I live my life today.

This may be a roundabout way to say, the most important aspect of my style as a photographer is discovery, so seeking out inspiration without traveling as much has been a substantial hurdle for me. It can be endlessly frustrating to want so badly to be creative and not have any way to properly scratch that itch. I find taking an hour or two out of a busy day to “be creative” doesn’t always cut it because it’s not always that easy to switch gears from pragmatic to creatively fluent.

Finding focus during slivers of solitude sandwiched between work and family requires a new kind of connection to my emotional self but maybe, like passion, this will take time and practice to fully understand. Discovering threads of what brings me joy creatively and following them to a productive space is maybe the key I have been searching for all this time.

I still pick up my Hasselblad and feel a desire to create. The weight of the camera gives a tangible memory to graft onto and the sound of its mechanics makes my spirit lift with joy. As I look out into the world through its ground glass focusing screen I see the emotion of light calling to me and the true depth of the world takes shape and yet, what, will, I, capture…


  1. Alex - May 14, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    Lovely read. The emotional toll on the soul when becoming a parent is never really covered, or always understated.

    It is truly tough.

  2. John Carey - May 14, 2019 at 8:29 pm


  3. Jay - May 28, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Hi John,

    I’m touched by the sincerity and courage you put into this reflection. For me it’s an inspiring read, especially in the midst of my years of transition.

    Keep on moving. And I’ll be supporting you, as always.


  4. Mike - July 11, 2019 at 8:29 am

    “At last to the best of my ability. Photography is my meditation, my ode to time.”

    Loved this bit, John. Great piece

  5. John Carey - July 11, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Thanks you guys, I really appreciate taking the time to read and share your thoughts.

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