Hello, everyone. Patricia Turner asked me to talk about what being a contemplative photographer means to me. So, here goes.
My mission is to live a contemplative life, so first I'd like to talk about what contemplation means to me.
Contemplation is about meeting life from a particular stance.
And that stance looks like this - being open and transparent; being curious about life. It's about listening well, without judging, controlling or comparing. There's no punishing; there's no winning or even losing. There is love, compassion, and kindness.
From this stance, I see and recognize that everything is about relationship. We are impacted by everyone and everything, and vice versa. We have the power and the privilege to make an impact with our every action, which makes it so important that those actions spring from contemplation.
Do I always operate from this stance? Of course not, but these are all habits that can be cultivated and photography helps me to practice.
Mentors in Contemplative Photography
I'd like to share with you some of the people who have influenced my thinking about contemplation. It's a diverse mix, and from them I've come to my own way of living a contemplative life.
Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant, well-known Canadian photographers, taught me to see the underlying foundation of everything – the visual design inherent in every image. They were the first to show me how labels limit our seeing.
Frederick Franck, artist and writer, wrote the classic book The Zen of Seeing. He taught me to experience wonder and essence through drawing.
Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, demonstrated the value of solitude and taking a long, loving look. He was really in love with the world.
And more recently the Miksang approach to contemplative photography, taught by Michael Wood and Julie DuBose, showed me how to become more aware of my initial perceptions.
These are the perceptions that come before we put labels on things. We don't really realize how quickly our perceptions are covered over by conceptual thinking.
Finally Seth Godin, who is a business blogger, not a photographer, is all about seeing and noticing in new ways. What he's taught me is that everyone has a unique way of seeing and that it's important to share that with the world.
So how does photography fit into this?
Photography is the tool that helps me to slow down, be present, and pay attention to my life. And then, to engage.
Being a contemplative photographer means everything to me. I see things in really new and exciting ways all the time. The more I practice, the more there is to see.
Photography also helps me to be more self-aware because what we see and notice reflects our inner state to some extent.
For example, my photography tends to go in themes and last winter I noticed that I was photographing vines growing on surfaces. Then, in the spring I was noticing blossoms at my feet. I like to write about how these themes reflect whatever's going on in my life at the time.
Contemplative photography is a really joyful experience for me and helps me to handle whatever comes my way in life, hopefully with grace.
Thank you Kim! It is always good for people to read about how others approach this diverse and fascinating field of contemplative photography! You can visit Kim's blog, 365 Days of Inspiration for more of her thought provoking commentary on contemplative photography. There is always a link to her blog in the right sidebar. Here is a link to her manifesto for living a contemplative life entitled Widen the Lens...short, concise and very much to the point. Read it here and sign up for here weekly newsletter and download the poster for free!