on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The Meaning of a Life

Our unique perspectives, personal and beyond judgement

Alister Benn

Alister Benn is a Scottish Landscape Photographer, writer and guide. He runs Expressive Photography Ltd with his partner Ann Kristin Lindaas. Alister is most focussed on the teaching of creativity and ways to unlock what's often hidden or suppressed, His Youtube channel, eBooks, instructional videos and small group workshops all delve into this fulfilling and life-changing development.

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For you — the blind who once could see —
The bell tolls for thee…
~Neil Peart 1952-2020

In 1982, Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist with the Canadian rock band Rush, wrote these words for a song called Losing It (on the album called Signals, 1982). The verse refers to Ernest Hemingway, who finding himself in poor mental and physical health and unable to write a short RSVP to an invitation from the White House, shot himself. A bitter end to such brilliance. The meaning of a life distilled into seconds and then memory.

As a lifelong Rush fan, I can truly say I was devastated when, on the 10th January, it was announced that Neil Peart had died at the age of 67 following a three-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer. As an introverted and somewhat geeky teenager, the lyrics of this man gave me hope that being different was ok; the self-validation of an individual was valid, and the meek may inherit the Earth! I felt infused with a sense of right and wrong, a strong moral compass and a dedicated work ethic. Neil and his two bandmates shaped my young mind and the subsequent life I have led thus far. I can assure you, I am truly grateful.

For the last 20 years, I have lived that life with a camera in my hand, and the hobby of which I was once a passionate amateur, has become a profession and a lifestyle. But what role does photography play in this life, and why is it so important, not just to me, but to millions of others around the world as well? Have we lost sight of this meaning, and can we get it back?

what role does photography play in this life, and why is it so important, not just to me, but to millions of others around the world as well? Have we lost sight of this meaning, and can we get it back?


Now I’ll admit, as starts to an article on landscape photography go, I would understand it if you decided to go and read something else, but I hope you’ll stick with this, as I have something that I believe is worth hearing. Trust me!

Grace Under Pressure

Much has changed in this last 20 years; digital has become by far the most common medium for photography, both in capture and output. Our lives are online 24/7, bombarded by a million photographs, or should I say images?

For many, landscape photography has become a competitive sport. Why should my life a as landscape photographer be stressful, when really, it’s all about a walk in the woods?
I picked up a camera all these years ago to relieve stress, and now my life seems full of it. Isn’t that odd? This pressure we are under to perform, to be seen performing and to compete is relentless. Social media demands content from us on a daily basis with the lust of a physician’s leeches. For many, landscape photography has become a competitive sport. Why should my life a as landscape photographer be stressful, when really, it’s all about a walk in the woods?

Part of the answer is that we’re an odd species: Social, yet competitive - intelligent, yet irrational - developed, though primal! It would appear that we’re at constant war with ourselves, knowing one thing and acting in another. Advertisers and marketers understand these juxtapositions all too well and exploit our fears, desires and insecurities for their profit. Your typical photography magazine is mostly advertising - propagating gear and location envy. Self-doubt, fear of failure, the constant comparing with our peers and judgement of others whose images are more popular than ours! As Marlene Dietrich famously said - “I want to be alone!”

In this article, I want to look at the symbiotic relationship between Landscape Photography and a meaningful life. One feeds the other, or rather they can! It’s about having grace under pressure, a clear head in the maelstrom, an inner knowledge that we are true to ourselves. What does this look like? 



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