Fleeting

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PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT BY DEREK CLARK

Our views and the questions we ask ourselves change as we age. Our own mortality (and the closer we get to it) is a big part of it, but we change as people. What made us happy in our twenties is different from what makes us happy or content in out 30's, 40's ...etc. A strange thing happened to me in the past year or two that through me quite a bit. We all know money can’t buy us happiness, but when the rest of my life was idling along fine, a new, camera, lens, light or analog synthesizer would give me a great buzz and keep me happily occupied for months. It could take me a long time to be able to afford something, but I would thoroughly enjoy researching it, reading the owners manual online or watching YouTube reviews (in recent years).

But one day I woke up and realized nothing was doing it for me. I was surrounded by the mundane and I was drowning in it. I tried to buy my way out of it with toys, but I couldn’t understand why I felt nothing. The new toy buzz no longer works and that's scary. I'm one of those people that pretty much know who they are and have done from an early age. I don’t smoke have never taken alcohol or drugs (the vice kind or the medical kind) and nobody could tempt me to do anything that I hadn’t already decided to do. So when you start to change and you don’t know why, it's difficult to know how to fix it. I wasn’t unhappy, but I just didn’t get a buzz out of life anymore. I had no focus and no obsession.

Last year I decided to try out a little experiment. I was in London during the week of my birthday with my wife and kids. I decided that on my birthday, I would wear the same clothes from that point on. I bought six pairs of dark grey trousers (like jeans, but smarter), six black T-shirts, socks, and underwear. I then bought a pair of quality black boots and a few dark jumpers and shirts. When I got back home, I put my other clothes in a suitcase and put it in the cupboard. I have not needed or wanted to use anything in that suitcase in over a year. I put my hand in the wardrobe each morning and pull out the same things each time. I can dress in the dark because it's all the same. I spend no time thinking about what to wear and that small change has taken away a pointless decision I had to make each day.

Another freeing thing is when I find myself in a clothes shop with my wife. I have no urge to buy anything for myself because I have what I need. It's a knock-on thing that I hadn’t thought of when I made this decision, but I like it...a lot.

So it's 2018, more than a year on and the wardrobe experiment has been a huge success and one that has become permanent. In the last few days before writing this, I have thrown out more stuff than I have ever thrown out before. The suitcase full of clothes went and a lot more than that. Apart from a couple of suits and coats, all my clothes can easily fit in one of those small suitcases that can be taken on a plane as carryon luggage.

I've also thrown out a load of stuff, including a guitar amp, a keyboard amp, a flight-case full of lenses from old film cameras. Lots more will go in the coming weeks too.
I don’t know what I'm looking for, but I know it's not in stuff. Hopefully clearing out the clutter will set me on a new path. We will see.

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Addendum: I've read a few books on minimalism in the past year, but 'Goodbye, Things - The New Japanese Minimalism' by Fumio Sasaki is probably the best so far. It's a Japanese book that has been translated perfectly into English by Eriko Sugita. The audiobook version is read by Keith Szarabajka and is very good. Both versions are available on iTunes at a reasonable price and the audiobook version is 4hr and 33 min long (unabridged).

Derek Clark

Documentary photographer based in Scotland, UK. Winner of UK professional Photographer of the Year 2012 in the News category and member of The Kage Collective.