It strikes me that my most essential learning in my ripening as a photographer has not come to me behind the lens at which I have been positioned for so many years.
I find it rather ironic that my understanding of an image’s fundamental ingredient came to me not in the formula of an aperture or shutter speed. Not in those adjustments did I connect the dots and discover my (creative) true north.
My grasp of light and its absolute reign in the affair of making a proper picture happened a great distance from this instrument which has churned out for me so many spectacular moments over the years. I’m not referring to illumination in that generic sense—we all know that light must hit “the film” in order for the chemical reaction which exposes it to take place.
But rather, I’m speaking of that ever present shimmer that must be heard, prospected and then gently sculpted.
Even on the opaque days it is there to be unearthed—that certain light that catches a few strands of strawberry blonde locks at the finish of a day. Those soft, sacred beams of sun that breathe life to a child’s gaze or makes timeless two hands clasped.
It’s the radiance that many a master before me has seized, and it transforms a snapshot into an irresistible story.
“Art is a spiritual transaction,” declared Julia Cameron in her legendary teaching book The Artist’s Way. For how many years did I pursue my subjects considering locations and wardrobes and seasons aligning all of the technical bases yet ignorant to the spiritual component of my craft?
Throughout my early seasons I had made many a fine pictures which celebrated life and all of its blessings, yet always a hovering hesitation in my process. Something left unfinished. With so much to learn of F stops and ISO settings and such, the most fundamental element of photography—that of being completely present with both subject and place had for me become veiled.
And, it was not until the camera was put down that I was able to slowly bring this concept of presence into proper focus. With patience and curiosity on the confines of my yoga mat and my cushion is where I came to naturally understand my missing link.
This awareness has since come to imprint every aspect of my process beginning first and foremost with a newfound insistence on that soft natural light mentioned earlier. Since tapping into the cumulative insights of my spiritual work and making this shift in my approach my experience is that when my first steps are those of pausing and breathing and silence and paying absolute attention, the rest of the capture has a way of taking care of itself. And while I continue to identify myself as a maker of pictures, I have come to see that like Rumi essentially, “The art I practice is silence.”
Without question, this doorway of spirituality has brought a whole new quality to my portraits.
For this, I feel blessed and confident that this type of awakening is in no way limited to artists. Periodic encounters with mastery are indeed available in all vocations with a simple shift in approach beyond the mechanical bounds of our craft and some time and space for a “spiritual transaction”.
Perhaps in insisting on some form of interlude between assignment and accomplishment we all discover our missing link.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise