Developing Mindfulness through Photography – Part 2

Mindfulness + Photography = Mindful Photography

In 2017 I published a post called ‘Developing Mindfulness through Photography’ that explained how mindfulness could be developed and applied to photography. I detailed my understanding of mindful photography’s roots, offered 10 reasons to embrace it and shared a useful Mindful Photography Practice. If you haven’t seen it just follow the link above.

The post has been very popular, indicating that there is a great interest in the idea. And as my understanding of mindfulness and its relationship with photography has deepened I felt that it was time for a follow up article.

Mindful Photography supports an exploration of your life

Mindful Photography brings mindfulness into the art and science of photography. It applies mindfulness to photography, considering how by attending mindfully to the process and art of creating a photograph you can elevate your photography skills. Mindful Photography also develops mindfulness through photography: by practicing your photography in specific ways you can become more mindful throughout your life. However, for me the most exciting (and scary) contribution Mindful Photography provides is its ability to support you to live with and accept significant loss and major change, or to just live with the great difficulty you are currently experiencing. It is an uncomfortable truth that we will all experience these things at several points of our lives.

I am currently writing my Mindful Photography book with the direct intention of it being a workbook for living with difficulty or travelling through life after major change or significant loss. It will be an experiential guide to life that will enhance wellbeing and support you to live the best version of your life right here and now. It will do this by sharing many photography and mindfulness ideas, concepts and theories that relate directly to using your camera to explore how your life is right now. Each will be supported with activities that I call Mindful Photography Practices. These are designed to apply the ideas discussed and develop a mindful approach to your life and photography.

Mindful Photography is for all photographers. Whether you think of yourself as a beginner, a snapper, an enthusiast or a professional. If you like to create photographs that say something of your world and how you feel it flowing through your body and life, then Mindful Photography will enable you to do just that.

Mindful Photography is for mindful people: beginners, enthusiasts and professionals alike. If you have an interest or curiosity about how mindfulness can support your wellbeing and enable you to live an authentic life, holding all the glory and grime with calmness, then Mindful Photography can support you to do that too.

Blending mindfulness with photography provides a way of living an attentive life with a way of exploring that life visually. This approach to photography and life is Mindful Photography, and my particular approach is designed for curious people who would like to live a happy life, but right now feel a little bit (or a lot) lost. I believe that Mindful Photography can provide a roadmap for working through life’s difficulties. However, this is challenging work because exploring what you find difficult requires courage, vulnerability and tenacity, and usually when we are in the midst of difficulty we might feel that being courageous is beyond imagining. That is OK. I understand, I have been in this place. I have been lost and unaware that I was lost. I have been uncertain of how to move anywhere, I just knew how rubbish it was in that moment. I am here to share with you one truth: nothing stays the same. How you feel can and will change.

How can Mindful Photography help?

I believe that Mindful Photography can be used to develop photographic and life skills that will enable you to understand how to create a great photo that says something about you, about your life, about how you feel and what is important to you. I call these the Foundation Skills and they include: An Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation, an Introduction to Mindful Photography, Clear Seeing, Seeing Skills, Composition, Elements of Visual Design, Visual Metaphors and Symbols and Abstract Photography.

Each of these can be developed as a skill through experiential learning: this means that in addition to reading about it you need to practice the skill, through what I call a Mindful Photography Practice – a practical task or assignment. The way I teach this stuff is that every Foundation Skill area includes a definition, examples, explanations, a personal interpretation and a Mindful Photography Practice that encourages understanding and skills development.

Then you can begin to explore your how your life is now – after the major change or significant loss or right in the midst of the stuff you are finding really difficult. This is an investigation into who you are now and how you are living and feeling. This calls upon the use and application of the Foundation Skills and looks at developing the understanding and skills to become more resilient, positive and accepting of the new you.

However, this is very challenging work. Exploring how you really are in the midst of chaotic troubled thinking, or after major change or significant loss generates feelings of vulnerability and this maybe something you initially feel is impossible. I believe that through the gentle development of mindful attitudes, continued experiential learning and the application of your developing Foundation Skills you can move forward. For it is a truth that vulnerability is often the doorway to your true self.

Mindfulness has changed my life. Developing mindfulness through photography has been and continues to be one way in which I have explored how I live now and how I can continue to live with curiosity, authenticity, honesty and truth. I believe that it can do the same for you, but as the Buddha is reported to have said, “Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances. Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion. Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real.”

 

This post was adapted from the introduction to my new book. If you would like to receive information about its availability in 2019 please subscribe to my newsletter below. 

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10 tips to slow down your photography

Mindful Photography in action

Digital Photography is fantastic. Its ability to capture what we see and allow instant review has revolutionised photography. It has changed how we create photographs and how we edit them. But perhaps the most fundamental change is that it has supercharged the creation of a photograph. Photographic creation and sharing is now like a Ferrari 812 Superfast. Back in the film days it was more like a classic mini.

Now, using a digital camera you can take eight photos per second. Take fifty of a scene, review them instantly and discard the ones you do not like. It is this that has fuelled a disconnect with the experience of what you see. You know that you can take lots of photos, at no cost and reject all the ones you don’t like. You pay less attention to what you are seeing, and crucially how you are framing the photos.

By applying mindfulness to photography you connect through the visual to the present moment. You walk with your camera – not looking for a photograph but noticing what you see – everytime you notice your busy mind, you return to what you can see in front of you. The seeing becomes your anchor, just like the breath when you meditate. This also has the potential to improve what you see and how you see.

The practice of clearly seeing everything that is in front of you is something that you can learn and develop. You can learn how you see. You can learn how you interpret light, colour, shapes, forms, textures and patterns to make sense of the world; and you can begin to understand how a camera represents the same scene. Then, with practice and contemplation of the photographs you create, you can begin to hone your ability to create photographs that represent what you see.

Maybe you still hanker for that classic mini experience. We are currently experiencing a growing interest in film photography. Perhaps there are elements of that slower pace, more engaged process and almost ritualistic nature that we are missing from the digital experience. However, there are ways of experiencing a film like experience with your digital camera, ways of slowing the process down and re-introducing some ritual.

In a desire to provide you with techniques to connect you with the creative experience, I offer you the following 10 tips to slow down your photography. This slowing down is a fundamental element of becoming more mindful with your photography, of becoming a Mindful Photographer.

10 Tips to slow down and connect with your photography

  1. Turn off your review screen or tape a small piece of card over it – Just like a film camera you can’t see what you have just created. This assumes you have a viewfinder to compose the photo. If  you don’t you could still follow this tip and shoot blind, imagining what your camera is receiving.
  2. Limit the number of photos you create – go filmic with a 12, 24 or 36 limitation
  3. Use a small packet of sweets or nuts to count/remember the number of shots you have used – Count them out before you start. As you can’t see the screen (Tip 1) use 12, 24 or 36 sweets/nuts in a little bag. After every shot eat one sweet or nut. It’s a win win!
  4. Limit your location area – Combined with 1, 2 and 3 this encourages you to really notice what is around you. Limit the area to a 100 meter square area, or less if you are feeling bold.
  5. Turn your lens into manual focus – Turn off the auto focus. It is a great art re-learning how and where to focus, and it also slows you down!
  6. Shoot from the hip – Now this one could actually speed you up. But if you hold your camera at your hip, and compose by imagining what your camera can see, you will slow down. Especially if you combine it with 1 and 2.
  7. Return to the visual – Whenever you notice your mind thinking about your next meal, tonight’s activities or some aspect of photographic skill, STOP and return to what you can see in front of you.
  8. Do not download or look at your photos for at least 2 days – Back in the film days we had to wait. Unless you were developing your own film, but even then it took time. I used to send my film off for developing and then wait a few days before looking through the returned photos, hoping at least one was a keeper. So, wait for a few days – at least 2 – before downloading. When you do look through them, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Notice the judgement and the commentary.
  9. Set your own mini photo marathon – Randomly choose 4 words, set aside 4 hours and create 4 photos in order, to represent the words. Photos must be in the word order and you must finish with only 4 photos. You could limit and slow yourself even more by ONLY shooting 4 photos. No deleting.
  10. No deleting allowed – Closely linked to number 2, do not allow yourself to delete any photos. Knowing that you cannot delete will encourage choice: whether to photograph or not, and this will slow you down.

PS The three photos accompanying the post follow some of these tips