Gratitude comes easily when you’re sitting somewhere glorious, like a beautiful beach; you can stare out at the ocean and feel a natural wave of thankfulness. But surprisingly, gratitude can be helpful to focus on during tough and trying times as well. Photographer Kate Branch explains one way to tap into what you’re thankful for.
Gratitude isn’t usually the kind of emotion we think about during difficult times, but tapping into feelings of thankfulness can be a way to cultivate deeper appreciation and perspective. And one of the most powerful ways to call access feelings of thankfulness is to use the power of images and photos.
I realised this phenomenon during one life-changing moment that happened in a Sydney nursing home. I was finishing my Masters of Art Therapy at the University of Western Sydney, where I was learning about the ways we use visual imagery to communicate. Human beings began drawing before we began writing, so in many ways art is our first language – which gives paintings, photos and drawings so much power.
As part of my study’s practical component, I was visiting nursing home patients weekly and looking through their albums and hearing their life stories. That’s where I learned that revisiting favourite photos is one to way access your feelings of gratitude.
I met so many different types of interesting people who had very different life experiences. From doctors who traveled the world researching, to mothers who had raised children. Some had seen fame or enjoyed an abundance of money, and their career highlights and travel pictures filled their albums. Other albums showed a gorgeous, chubby child’s first walk, or captured a group of eight grandchildren celebrating their grandfather’s 80th birthday.
Now a photographer, I understand more than most people that matter what your life experiences have been, photographs are one of the only things we have left to revisit our life. Accolades, travel, youth, beauty—it all slips through what we call time. I learned that as you get older (if you are blessed to do so) a photograph can remind you, bring a smile to your face, and take you back to that moment, even if just for a minute. Don’t leave those images hidden in the ‘cloud’, but make sure you’re regularly looking back with gratitude, which will help you move forward too.
“Time will never stand still and those moments that bring us such joy become memories in an instant. To capture such a moment and record it forever is truly monumental.” – Joshua Atticks