Mindful Photography Workshop – Swansea Carers

Today I delivered a Mindful Photography Workshop to participants of Swansea Carers. We were fortunate that the morning was bright and dry, which allowed everyone to get out and about the SA1 area of Swansea – a great venue for a photography workshop.

My main intention of the session was to slow people down and root them in the visual opportunities available. Mindful Photography uses the visual feast before us as our anchor: just as meditation uses the breath. After an introduction to the idea and a little meditation I set the group their first task – ‘Shooting from the Hip’.

If you would like a Mindful Photography Workshop for your organisation or workplace then take a look at what I offer here

Shooting from the Hip

Before we started this activity I introduced the idea of the 4 Stage Seeing Practice, this simple practice describes how we can use what we see as our anchor, the thing we return to whenever we notice thoughts and feelings rising in our mind. The activity encourages us to slow down and to imagine what it is that our camera receives. We cover up or turn off our viewing screen and take a set number of photos in a defined time. These limitations are chosen to support a connection to the moment through the visual stimulation available.

Each photographer chose a small area to practice the activity and they had to create each photograph holding the camera at their hip. This meant they had to imagine the view that the camera could see and then press the shutter. Of course, they also could not see how many photographs they had created, so they had to keep count.

After the time was up each of us chose one photograph to share and discuss, and here they are

Anne Cath Christine Jude Justine lee Peter sandra uma

I am Great /  Right Now

The second activity imposed different limitations. This time we all had only two photographs to create, but there was a catch. We were not allowed to look at the photograph created, nor were we allowed to delete. This turns our camera back into a film camera and encourages us to slow down and pay attention to the process of creating a photo.

Everyone was also given two themes; one for each photo. They were ‘I am Great’ and ‘Right Now’ and a time limit for the whole activity was agreed. I have separated the photos below into the two topics.

I am Great

Anne (1) cath (1) Christine (1) Jude (1) lee (1)Justine Peter (1) Sandra (1) Uma (1)

Right Now

Anne (2) cath (2) Christine (2) Jude (2) Justine (2) lee (2) Peter (2) Sandra (2) Uma (2)

 

Art Challenge Wales

Art Challenge Wales is a fabulous event created by Porthcawl resident Philip Vaughan. It takes place in Porthcawl and invites artists of any genre to create a work of art in the Porthcawl town environs between 9am and 5pm. The only stipulation beyond that is that the art celebrates Porthcawl.

I spent the day with my favourite woman, Kim, who is also a resident of this Welsh seaside town and supported me in the creation of the photo below. We spent most of the morning collecting portraits of locals and visitors and asking them what they loved about Porthcawl.

The afternoon was spent creating the composite image of most of the portraits and then inserting a couple of iconic photos of the town below, before rubbing out some of the portraits to reveal the photos underneath. The final stage involved printing the photo at the fantastically accommodating local ‘The Print Shop’ before writing on each portrait their answers to the question about what they loved about the town. A quick bit of framing and then off to hand it in, just within the deadline.

Great fun and all the works of art are going to be displayed locally very soon. If you click on the photo below it will open to a larger size, though it is missing my scrawled ‘love’ interventions!

LeeAsplandArtChallengePorthcawlWeb2

Edinburgh Photomarathon

A couple of weekends back Kim and I traveled to Edinburgh to stay with friends and take part in the Edinburgh Photomarathon. This was the inaugural event and was part of the Retina Photography Festival.

A photomarathon takes part over a day and challenges participants to create photos that represent a topic in a time frame. The Edinburgh event was 12 topics, 12 photos, in 12 hours and was completed using a simple point and shoot automatic film camera. This provided many extra challenges to the digital versions I have done in Cardiff. Obviously there is no way of seeing what you have created, and as a consequence there were a couple of mishaps! Photos 8 and 11 failed to turn out, both due to inadequate lighting that the photographer failed to take account of – amateur!

Also, photo 12 for everybody failed to work. There was some technical problem with all the cameras and only the first 11 frames were recorded. I have included a digital version I took at the same time here – because I can 🙂

Each of the photos were created as a product of a brainstorming conversation with Kim, and as you can see she is in a few of them. We worked fabulously as a team! The competition was great fun and though we didn’t win any prizes I love photo 4 Cacophony – that’s a winner in my eyes.

If you want to see the winners and all of the photos created then head over the the event’s Flickr Page.

1 - Entry Number ('ate!')

1 – Entry Number (‘ate!’)

2 - Bicycle

2 – Bicycle

3 - Puzzle

3 – Puzzle

4 - Cacophony

4 – Cacophony

5 - Pink

5 – Pink

6 - Beauty in the Mundane

6 – Beauty in the Mundane

7 - Tourist

7 – Tourist

9 - Circles and Lines

9 – Circles and Lines

10 - Look

10 – Look

12 - New meets old

12 – New meets old

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Mindful Photography Course for your staff

Mindfulness is now recognised as practice that is supportive to all aspects of our lives and something that can enable us to respond positively to stress, rather than react habitually. It is for this reason that many corporations, public sector organisations and businesses encourage staff to follow mindfulness sessions at work. With this is mind I have developed a Mindful Photography course for employed staff.

What is Mindful Photography?

Mindful Photography is the development of mindfulness through photography. The sessions can make use of mobile phone cameras or staff can bring in their own cameras. Either way the experiences and activities will encourage an attention to the moment whilst also exploring skills that are relevant to work. These skills include: team work, self-confidence, responding positively to stress, communication, creative thinking and negotiation.

Mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to the moment. It is centred upon the idea that there are Four Foundations of Mindfulness that we can be aware of. These are

  1. Our sensations: what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell
  2. Our thoughts
  3. Our feelings
  4. The one thing that we are engaged with

If we can be aware of these foundations, pay attention to our experience, then we can be wholly immersed in the moment and our lives.

I use mindfulness practices developed from the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) to develop and share photography activities. These practices all relate back to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and each is designed to encourage an attention to our daily experience.

In a work environment this paying attention leads to many benefits for the individual, which also spill over into the rest of their lives. The benefits to the individual staff member then accrue for the organisation, as staff become more centred, less stressed and more supportive of one another. Using photography as the vehicle for mindfulness allows something familiar to be used as our way in to the practice and we also learn how to create more interesting personal photographs.

Mindful Photography Course

The course is best delivered over 8 weeks of 3 hour sessions, though the total hours (24) can be split up in other ways to suit the needs of the business. An outline of the sessions follows and I would be delighted to meet and discuss how it could meet your businesses needs and to expand upon my philosophy and the course detail. Each week includes Photography activities and practices that develop a mindful attitude and specific personal skills relevant to a harmonious and effective work environment.

Week 1: Introduction to Mindfulness and Mindful Photography – Why Mindfulness? How can mindfulness support your life? Introductory Practices. Using photography to develop mindfulness. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Shooting from the Hip’

Week 2: Mindful Seeing – Using what we see as our anchor for mindfulness practice. Using the 4 Stage Seeing Practice. How we see vs how a camera sees. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Giving the mundane its beautiful due’

Week 3: Mindful Thinking – An exploration of how we can remain present with the one thing that we are doing when our mind is shooting about reliving the past and imagining our future. The application of this to photographic thinking. Photography practices and activities, including the ‘Camera Scan practice’

Week 4 Mindful Photomarathon  A pair challenge designed to practice and apply the mindful photography skills learnt to date and develop teamwork, negotiation, creative thinking and responding to stress rather than reacting. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Photo Scan practice’

Week 5 Mindful Reflection  A review of the Photomarathon experience. Mindful practices that support us in work. Photography practices and activities, including ‘A 50 foot space’

Week 6 Mindful Feeling – An exploration of our emotional world and how photography can be used to illustrate and understand this experience. Recognising our stress indicators. Developing positive responses to stress. Understanding our habitual reactions. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Equivalents’

Week 7 Mindful Emotions – Developing an understanding of our emotional world and how we can represent this through our photos: photography techniques vs an emotional response. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Right now’ and ‘It’s been emotional!’

Week 8 Mindful Being vs Doing – Understanding our personal fears. Mindfulness practices that can support our acceptance of those fears. Exploring fear through photography. Review of the course and a celebration of our favourite photos. Photography practices and activities, including ‘I love Selfies’

 

One popular adaptation is to take Week 4 Mindful Photomarathon out of the weekly schedule and turn it into a full day. This becomes then an even more immersive, team building exercise and can be used to explore the local town/city or a chosen environment.

The course will also produce many personal photographs from those taking part. All of the favourite photographs will be collated and shared with the business, providing an opportunity to use some of the photos to illustrate the skills and experiences of your staff.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this course or other similar ideas you have please contact me.

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Mindful Photography Workshop – Swansea

My last workshop was at the 360 Café in Swansea at the weekend. The theme centered upon the application of mindfulness to all the thinking that can swamp us as we are preparing to create a photograph.

Mindful Photography means the application and development of mindfulness through photography. The first stage is using what we see to root us in the moment. This is rather like when we meditate and we use our breath as an anchor to return to when we notice our busy mind. In mindful photography we use what we see as our visual anchor.

Each workshop I share the 4 Stage Seeing Practice which is a simple routine to follow when we are out with our camera. This is particularly useful when we are developing as photographers. That journey from beginner to master can be a long and noisy (mind) one. Malcom Gladwell in Outliers suggests that this journey for any skill is one of 10,000 hours. That is a long time, a lot of photos, editing, reading and looking at great photographers’ work. In fact if you did 2 hours of that every day for 13 years you would just about get your 10,000 hours done!

Meanwhile, what is needed is a way of holding all the photographic thinking (and the other thoughts that pop up) whilst we are out with our camera, so that we can still be connected to the visual possibilities. At the workshop I shared some practices that centered upon the technical choices (aperture and shutter speed) and compositional choices that we have swirling about as we consider creating a photograph of the visual feast before us.

Aperture

The first photo activity used Aperture as its key practice. Using a simple camera set up I encouraged the students to experiment with Depth of Field, finding an appropriate scene and capturing two photos that demonstrated the impact of different apertures. Here are some of their examples.

Sarah (4) Sarah (3) Rob (4) Rob (3) lee (3) lee (2) Jude (2) Jude (1) Glynis (2) Glynis (1) Beth (2) Beth (1) Barbara (2) Barbara (1)

 

Shutter Speed

Having control of the shutter speed allows us to create photographs that we cannot see. Slow shutter speeds allow us to demonstrate subject or camera movement. Fast shutter speeds allow us to demonstrate the what can be seen when we freeze the action. Using a simple shutter speed camera set up the students were encouraged to practice one of these possibilities and then share a photograph that they had created. Here they are.

Barbara (1) Beth (1) Glynis John 1 Jude lee (2) Rob (1)Sarah (1)

 

Composition

There are many compositional guidelines that are suggested and written about (in great detail) that offer advice for directing where to place that little rectangular frame when we are creating a photograph. Applying mindfulness to this area of photographic development provides us with the opportunity to consider using one guideline at a time as our mindful photography practice.

For example you could choose a simple camera set up and then decide to practice leading lines. Focusing on just one compositional guideline encourages experimentation: each guideline is there to suggest what might work. In a single guideline practice we can try out different arrangements of the scene’s features in our frame, we can play with the guideline and even see what our photos look like when we break the rules!

For our final activity each student chose one compositional guideline and experimented.  Here are their favourites, can you guess the guidelines used?

Barbara Beth Glynis John Jude lee Rob Sarah

 

Next Workshop

My next Mindful Photography Workshop will be in September and will be looking closely at the possibilities of using photography to explore and represent our emotional experiences of life. If that sounds interesting then keep an eye on the website (you can register to receive the blog below) news will follow soon.

 

Peg Talks – July 2016

If you are a Swansea resident and have yet to experience the Peg Talks then you have an inspirational experience awaiting you.

The Peg Talks are organised and run at the Square Peg, a social enterprise cool café based in Sketty, Swansea. Every 5 weeks or so 3 local people share a personal talk about something that is close to their heart. Each speaker has been nominated by a previous speaker, and so the love is shared!

Last night was the 5th round of the Peg Talks and I was one of the nominated speakers. I was on with Rocia Cifuentes, Anna Parton and Ian Phillips.

Rocia Cifuentes went first and spoke with great passion and emotion about her personal journey; her escape from Pinochet’s Chile in the 1970s to her welcome and growing up as a Swansea girl. This is how she describes herself: “Refugee. Immigrant. Daughter. Mother. Partner. Sister. Aunt. Friend. Cambridge Graduate. Swansea Graduate. Lefty. Socialist. Feminist. Globalist. Human Rightivist. Swansea person. Chilean. Welsh. Pop Lover. Hip Hop Lover. Runner. Swimmer. Charity Worker. Director.  Trustee. Helper. All of those things and Me”

I was next up. I had prepared 20 or so cue cards to act as memory joggers. I stood behind the mic, looked at all those faces and failed to take a photo. I tried, thought I had succeeded, but the moment overwhelmed me. I looked at the first cue card; it made no sense, so I put them down and just let it flow through me.

My theme was paying attention and particularly how, when we don’t, our fears take over. But that if we pay attention to what we are experiencing, however it is, then love has the capacity to offset the fear. Love for it all; the pounding in our breast, the butterflies in our belly, the cold quivering of our fingers. It was a joy to share my story and to receive such positive feedback from old friends and new. Thank you Sian and Ben for providing the opportunity.

After a little break Anna Parton was up next. Anna is a passionate dietitian; in fact she is passionate about many things. Her talk was inspiring, entertaining and full of laughter and love. Here’s how she describes herself: “Anna Parton , has been a practicing dietitian for over 30 years. She loves eating, occasionally enjoys feasting , eats cake sometimes but believes in good proper food , good eating and clear health messages that health professionals have an obligation to deliver in a way that everyone can understand .Seeing the rise of nutritional related conditions such as obesity, diabetes she passionately believes we need to change our approach to food and eating without making it forbidden fruit.”

Last up was Ian Phillips the founder of Re-Cycle. Re-Cycle was set up as a social enterprise 8 years ago to reduce the widespread waste of bikes, while ensuring a supply  of reliable and affordable bikes for sale. About one in five bikes are given with maintenance training to volunteers. Ian spoke with enthusiasm and belief about the huge numbers of volunteers that have been through his doors, the skills learnt and the bikes saved.

What a fantastic night. Inspirational local stories. Why don’t you try and make the next one? You’ll have to act fast though, this one sold out in hours and was packed last night. See you there?

square peg 1 square peg 2square peg 3