Mindfulness through a camera lens

Sophie Cheng uses photography to focus her perspective on life

My parents gave me, at around age five, my first disposable camera. Of course, then, I had no idea that photography would become a lifelong passion.

As someone for whom words do not flow easily, I love creating visual memories: capturing emotions and events in colour and light, creating physical and digital photo diaries with images I have taken.

In today’s age it is so easy to take a photograph. It often becomes one of the many thousand halfheartedly-taken snaps on our phone, never to be looked at again.

What seems to me increasingly important is that, amongst this visual deluge, we find a way to sweep aside the cacophony of the senses that is 21st century living. We should appreciate the offline life going on in front of us, and interact with the images we take in a more meaningful way.

My relationship with photography took an unexpected turn when I found my vision impaired by two cataracts towards the end of my first year at university. As seeing clearly became more difficult, with things looking much brighter and more blurred, I found the most joy in using a film camera to capture moments I wanted to look back on.

Surprisingly easy to use, and yielding better results without editing, there was the added benefit of having a finite roll of film as the curator of the click. Each photo I took with thought. With the ability to immediately view the picture and the subsequent option of retaking now lost, I thought less about appearances and spent more time appreciating the moment.

After having one of my cataracts removed, I noticed how yellow-tinted my vision was in the eye with the cataract still intact. Somehow my eyes had adapted to this, and the colours my ‘new’ eye was seeing were much stronger and clearer. Everything looked better, as if my eyes had a filter to out-filter all others.

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This experience helped me become more mindful of the beauty in everyday things—leaves on frosty mornings, how different sunlight can be even ten minutes apart, what washing-up bubbles look like up close. It has realigned my perspective on what’s important and brought me clarity in an increasingly cloudy and crowded world.