Photography Nightmares

It reoccurs, often. This harrowing dream that I have.

It’s vague and non-distinct, more of a thought process than an actual scene. I’m somewhere exciting, foreign, seeing something truly spectacular. Like, unicorn spectacular or interstellar sunsets. I happen to have my camera. I frantically grab it from where it hangs on my shoulder, focus the lens and push the shutter release. It’s going to be the photo of the century. Except nothing happens. I push and push down on the shutter, anxious to get the shot before said marvel fades away. The button depresses, but there’s no satisfying ‘click’ of the actual shutter release. No photo being taken. I panic. Why isn’t my camera working? Why, at this spectacular moment, does the camera become defective? Either the scene fades as predicted, or I’m off to chase some other dream sequence, the disappointment lingering and tainting the rest of the night…

I know what Freud would say. Freud would claim, a cigar dangling in his hand, that was we have here, is, Photography Impotence. Yes, yes. Failure to do the job. Or rather, a fear of failure- it being a dream and all. In the dream, all the stars have aligned the perfect shot, the available equipment, but still something goes awry. Either I have failed myself, or technology is not to trust. Things break often, no surprise there. Yet when I awake, it’s a sad disappointment that plagues. When something breaks, or an item fails to do its job, our logical response is always anger. We’ve all kicked the soda machine when it greedily ate our change and yielded no beverage. We’ve all banged the key with a rat-tat-tat-TAT! when the computer freezes.  I’ve even seen friends chuck cell phones against walls (maybe not so logical). Point is, I don’t injure my camera nor wish it ill will in my dream.  I’m just, sad.

If the assumption is that dreams reveal something about ourselves, albeit a fear or secret wish or even something mundane as randomly restrung memories, then a reoccurring dream must be like an alarming mental mantra. As a photographer, I’ve raced to catch many a sunset or held my breath trying to snap a skittish creature. It’s the decisive moment in photography that makes a photograph spectacular. Being able to know that, I can fear missing it.

Recent sunset that I raced to catch. The race included speeding in a car and flights of stairs over train tracks.

In the end, it’s no secret, the reason I have these nightmares. In school they taught us that there’s a few reoccurring dreams that most people have as they grow up. The professor polled the class as he listed the predictable dreams, and I raised  my hand for having experienced every last one of them.  Teeth falling out? Forgot that there was a test in school today? Missing an item of clothing i.e. shirt, shoes or pants?  Yes, D, all of the above.

So the question is, am I the only one to have this dream? Do other high-strung photographers also have, (a made-up-freudian-term) “photography-impotence”?  I’d like to think so. Or rather, I’d like to hope so.

And if dreams help us in the real world by making us work through potential dangers and threats, then let’s all hope that when ever I do come across a unicorn, etc, my camera, and myself, won’t fail me.

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