A curious question I’ve been having: is it possible to live a happy life in the suburbs?
So my questioning will attempt to answer two questions I have for myself:
- Is it possible to live a generally happy life in the suburbs
- Assuming your passion is photography, can you live a happy life as a photographer in the suburbs?
As an American, when I say ‘suburbs’– I mean, a non-dense city, which is generally “boring”.
First of all, I think it is possible to make interesting photos in the suburbs. For example, a lot of photos that I’ve shot for my ‘Only in America‘ series, or just general photos I’ve been shooting on a phone when out and about were in the “boring” suburbs!
I think this is the point:
Intentionally try to photograph boring stuff.
In photographing boring stuff– you make it interesting! Why? Because generally photographers don’t photograph what is seen as boring.
And not only that, but it actually takes more skill to make interesting photos of boring stuff!
So as a general tip or idea:
As a photography assignment for yourself, seek to make interesting photos of boring stuff!
I’ve been reading a lot of Horace lately, and have been meditating on the lives of philosophers. It seems the general trend for philosophers is this:
Live an extremely epic and turbulent life, then seek “tranquil shores”, and write and meditate in some peaceful place.
For example, my best friend Seneca had his most prolific philosophical writings when he first got sent into exile (into a very boring island, away from interesting Rome). Montaigne essentially locked himself in a small room in a castle in the middle of the country-side. Even Horace lived simply in the country-side, on his little ‘Sabine Farm’, and said boldly in one of his poems that he was above envy, and he decided to “quit cities”.
So if we inspect the lives of famous philosophers from the past, you can obviously have an intellectually productive and “happy” life in some “boring” place. I forgot which philosopher it was (one of the pre-socratic philosophers, perhaps Isocrates) who didn’t even visit Athens (the “popping city” in ancient times), and instead, decided to live in a nondescript, “boring” city, saying:
“I prefer to live in a boring city and make it famous, rather than live in an (already) famous city.”
So in short,
You are a great person. You don’t need to live in an “interesting” city to be an interesting person. Rather, seek to use your own power and influence to make your own boring city famous, through your own greatness!
For example, William Eggleston lives in a boring city somewhere in Southern-America. He has made interesting photos in his boring city his entire life, and has never really left! He is a prime example of making interesting photos in your own boring city, rather than seeking to travel outwards to make interesting photos.
I’m not discouraging you from traveling, seeing the world, and exploring. In-fact, I think it is advantageous (for nearly everyone) to have the opportunity to travel, see the world, understand and learn from foreign cultures, etc.
However, don’t think that by not traveling and seeing the world that you are “missing out”. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) drive your decision to travel. Rather, let your own curiosity lead your travels.
And know that ultimately, you can still live a happy life as a photographer-individual in the suburbs, or your own boring city!
Some basic ideas, on taking interesting photos when you’re at your boring home:
- Shoot more with your phone: Shoot with your phone at the gas station, at the gym, at the park, at the mall, or when you’re just out and about! Recently I just stopped by the bank, and shot interesting photos around it, in the boring ‘strip malls’ of the Los Angeles suburbs!
- Shoot more photos of your loved ones! Make interesting portraits of your loved ones at home (either posing them), or candidly! Use your street photography-candid techniques when photographing your loved ones.
- Go out to dinner more often: Treat the money you spend on eating out as your cost of going out, to see more interesting and novel scenes, and shoot ‘street photography’ in new restaurants, bars, or places! Essentially if you’re living in a boring place or the suburbs, go to where the people are! If you are a fisherman, of course you go where the fish are. If you’re a photographer/street photographer, go to where people are, to be more inspired to make photos!
And ultimately the advice is this:
Whatever your situation in life is, extract the fullest maximum of it!