Mindfulness & The Art of Slow Photography

Mindfulness and the art of Slow Photography


A Turkish friend had been going into lucid detail of the true meaning of mindfulness, a term of modern trend that can often be treated with flippant discard or so I thought.

One version of the meaning according to Psychology Today is; “Mindfulness is the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosityopenness, and acceptance” There are many definitions of this meditative practice that has its roots in Buddhism but this description in particular appealed to me,  another is “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”

Now  regular followers of my blog may have already determined I am not really a spiritual man,  neither am I one for hanging labels on my beliefs or philosophy, I do poach a little from here and there and no doubt that a thread of anarchism runs through it all but in the end I see things in shades of monochromatic pragmatism. So, it does seem somewhat contradictory of me to delve into the world of Zen. But I am also a contradictory fellow.

As my friend was explaining the concept to me, I realized that this was something I already practice but I know it as the non-philosophical term; Photography. Personally speaking, photography and the concept of Mindfulness are intrinsically intertwined, to be at the very least a competent photographer you must follow the basic principles of Mindfulness.

I have unknowingly touched on this in previous posts and it’s something I now want to explore further; Finding Order In The Chaos

A recent case in point.

The day had not been going well, frustration and anger had been slowing morphing into depression, I had decided a walk would do me good, I shouldered my camera gear with only half an idea of shooting a near by lake at sunset, I am not a landscape photographer but I enjoy the process and of course the walk.

Along a potholed lane out of the village, past a couple of scruffy mutts bleating and into open fields, the sun was still high and the heat induced sweat dribbling wherever it could, past sullen sunflower plants with their heads bowed in despair, the landscape was not spectacular; provincial, pastural, pleasant, the lake was hardly a lake, more a big pond, I’m not sure how you define either. I hiked the ridge above the lake and surveyed the scene from every angle, a gypsy and his cart toddled past and some fishermen were packing their kit and getting ready to leave. Soon I stood alone apart from a hawk of some sort, wings wide above the fields.

I predicted the final movements of the sun, where the shadows would fall, the only problem was that from every angle an electricity pylon spoiled my potential photograph, it was the wrong sort of energy that was blighting my bliss. There would be no pretty picture postcard lake at sunset shot and It didn’t matter, this was not a commission, I had no brief to fulfil.

I scrambled down the bank to the waters edge and startled basking frogs back into the sanctuary of the water, plopping one after the other in perfect time to my footsteps, at the far side of the lake I set my bag down and made myself comfortable in the long grass.

Its here that things began to come into focus, my view was limited to what was in close proximity, the only sound was nature, in the stillness the frogs regained their confidence and reappeared in the algae coated water, a stork settled and turtle edged along his perch, I was completely focused on my surroundings, the pattern of plants and the insects that went about their business without interruption, as the lake fell into shadow I felt inclined to head back to home, I have no idea how long I sat there, in those moments my mind was free, not empty but not cluttered with concern or toxicity. I made a couple of images and strode home as dusk passed into night.Untitled-1

The images were unimportant snapshots consigned to my hard-drive until now, the clarity though was enough to make a difficult decision a simple one.

I think we need to talk about Slow Photography more often and its relationship with Mindfulness and its potential as Art Therapy.

As a full time professional photographer, it is often hard to justify the time and trouble and inevitable expense to engage in non-profitable work, that is, unless you redefine the term profitable.

Thank you all for your continued support and buying me a coffee goes much further than you can possibly imagine Buy Me A Coffee

Thank you Marcus Marcus Peddle Photography & Poetry







52 thoughts on “Mindfulness & The Art of Slow Photography

  1. I enjoyed reading this very much. I hadn’t seen the similarities between mindfulness and photography before, but you’re right in that the practice is the same! Again, I enjoyed your observation!

  2. gravelghost

    I think this is one reason why I crave and love traveling alone, being alone with my camera for hours, days on end. It’s because I have the chance to be fully present and observing of my environment. I find it to be extremely calming. I am not a calm person. I am very intense. But when I spend three hours looking and photographing one, small area in the desert, it’s sort of like meditation I suppose and I’m centered and peaceful afterwards. BTW, you write very well.

  3. Pingback: Mindfulness & The Art of Slow Photography – Bethene Zetterquist Photography

  4. mindfulness is seeing deep – something that a true photographer does instinctively – thank you for putting a word to it — and i am stealing your phrase “poach a little here and there” – well, not really steal, for i will always acknowledge that they are your words. thank you again…

  5. So beautifully written and photographed. I guess it’s that way for me as well. Perhaps I walk through the woods and fields the way that you walk through the streets, expectant and seeing. A great deal of what touches me never makes into a photograph. It moves quickly and is gone but I’m still happy for the being there. 🌷

  6. Hi John, You are right in asking what profitable might mean. I agree that being curious and creative in life can reward us with untold profits, none to do with money. I enjoy hiking and photography precisely for the reasons you have described. Lovely to read your thoughts.

  7. We can’t run with the needle so close to empty. And there is so much in the world that leaves us drained, strained, and thin of heart and soul. It is always profitable to find and remain with whatever refills our hearts and brings peace to our minds.

  8. This message could be applied to many of the visual arts, when time is needed to reflect on the role, the model or scene, when our usual approaches are just not working. It’s good too, to share your thoughts on the ‘slow’ photography you speak of and to enjoy the finished work.

    1. detectioninspectionsllc

      I, too, have walked along the water’s edge and witnessed the plopping frogs and descending turtles. Glad you stayed long enough to have them return and truly understand the moment. Wonderful prose. Thanks for sharing a different side of John.

  9. earthdreamer

    Beautifully expressed. I’ve felt this for a long time. I tell people that learning the art of photography is learning the art of seeing. Thank you.

  10. I was just about to write about the same topic! Photography can definitely be a form of meditation and have therapeutic effects on our mental well-being! Loved the post, you gained a subscriber, ciao from Venezia!

  11. I love your reflexion on mindfulness and the link to slow photography. Your writing is also superb ! Thank you for liking my post. I am looking forward to reading more of yours!

  12. Any of my hobbies offer distraction by focusing on the here and now, but yes, photography allows the added utility of communing with the outdoors. It also offers the opportunity to relive the experience when processing the photos at a later time.

  13. This article is suggesting the possibility of meditation with sight.
    Usually, meditation is done by closing your eyes without visual stress. I am very interested in the effectiveness of photo therapy.

  14. Pingback: Mindfulness & The Art of Slow Photography – Do Anna Blog

  15. Great article. I totally agree. All art making is intrinsically mindful. Three aspects of mindfulness are intention, attention and attitude. We make images with intention, even it it is to take pictures to see what we can see. We bring our attention to the subject and actively see what we can see. And we do it with attitude in that our intention guides our actions and behaviour. We are aware that we are aware, we don’t just look, we seek to see. Elliot Erwitt said ‘Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them’

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