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 curiosity, openness, 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.
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.
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Thank you Marcus Marcus Peddle Photography & Poetry
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!
It seems obvious when you think about but I hadn’t until very recently
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.
Thank you Merilee.
Yes exactly I feel the same-and your wonderful images reflect that. I would not of imagined you as an intense person mind you!
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…
Thank you Cynthia
You are most welcome 🙂
I am an amateur photographer and I find this to be the single reason I do what I do. You just explained it better than I ever could. 😉
I think most creative people understand. For beginners of photography its an important lesson though I feel. You have some wonderful images here-
Well done and thanks for dropping by
Thank you 🙏
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. 🌷
Yes exactly that 🙂
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.
Thank you. Yes we are completely on the same page.
Some wonderful images and amazing locations here : https://meiphotoimages.wordpress.com/
You are very kind. Thank you 🙂
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.
You are not wrong!
A struggle at times but worthy in the end
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.
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.
Yes I agree, all creative thought.
Thank you so much 🙂 x
Yes totally. Beyond art and applied to daily life of course
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.
Yes-the art of learning to see is another post I have in mind
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!
Thank you and yes we absolutely agree.
Please do write something-I really think its a topic under represented.
Your photography is great-keep up the good work.
I sure will! Thank you for checking out my photos, I really appreciate 🙏 looking forward to your next post!
Lovely photos paired with equally lovely words.
Thank you very much 🙂
Good luck with the driftless life-I really can relate.
Great post. I think you would enjoy the short podcast Meditative Story and its episode The Perfect Photograph I never took by John Moore
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!
Thank you Mariska 🙂
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.
Yes absolutely 🙂
Thanks for dropping by
Reblogged this on From 1 Blogger 2 Another.
Thank you for you support as ever 🙂
John you are a singular talent and most welcome!
absolutely love those photographs – in my experience just the very situation of being a photographer makes you more present in each moment
Yes exactly 🙂
Thank you Prabhjot 🙂
Good luck with your new blog-looking forward to lots more
Appreciate your words
Appreciate your response. It means a lot from a busy professional like you. Stay blessed and keep shining always.
I like to take mindful photography walks! And just capture whatever interests me. Its great. Good article thanks for sharing.
Thank you Anita. I think to some of us it takes little explanation
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.
Yes. This really is just a thought and some sort of hybrid, I will explore more.
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’
Thank you Chris. Beautifully explained. Elliot Erwitt was an early inspiration although I had not remembered that quote. Appreciated thank you
Beautiful article, thank you!
My pleasure Julie
Thank you for reading 🙂
I’m not sure the term profitable resonates. Maybe value? All work has value.