Photography And Mindfulness
Recently, a participant in one of my classes took me aside after class and mentioned that the way I taught photography reminded them of their “mindfulness” practice.
Mindfulness seems to be a big thing lately. However, it was always a big thing. I mean, I remember in grammar school being told to “pay attention”. So, In my mind, mindfulness is nothing more than paying attention. More specifically, paying purposeful attention to whatever we’re doing at the moment without judging what we’re doing. Maybe if I heeded the advice of my grammar school teachers I’d be better at readin’ writin’ and ‘rithmatic.
As I’ve said before in many a blog post, in my mind, photography is simply a recording of light. And what we do as photographers is observe and record light. However, what we do as photographers isn’t simple, it’s complex. To be clear, I don’t mean complex as in difficult, (like math is for me). What I mean is that there are many “parts” or “functions” to what we do to create a photograph.
I enjoy being a photographer. Furthermore, I enjoy the spontaneous nature of my work.
I think that being mindful is useful. Among the reasons I think that being mindful is useful is because when we’re mindful we tend to make fewer mistakes. As an example, I’ve gotten on a Metro train goin’ in the opposite direction from my intended direction because I was preoccupied with thoughts of being late for an appointment. Anyone see the irony here?
I’m all for efficiency. In other words, I don’t like doin’ unnecessary work. Many people I know practice mindfulness by setting aside time to meditate. While that’s very useful to them, I don’t find much use in practicing mindfulness in that manner. Instead, for the sake of efficiency, I find it useful to practice mindfulness in my daily activities. ALL of my daily activities, including photography. In fact, I think that in order for us to create the best photographs that we can, photography and mindfulness MUST go hand in hand.
When we bring mindfulness into our studies and practice as photographers, our studies and practice become more efficient and improve.
As an example, when we’re learnin’ photography we tend to make mistakes. In fact, mistakes are a part of our process of learning. However, when we’re mindful we can see our mistakes. As result, our process becomes more efficient and our compositions improve.
To return to the background motivation for this blog post. In short, Id have to agree with the assessment. Because, although all of my classes are about learnin’ photography and camera operation, they’re also about paying attention to what we do as photographers. The importance of paying attention to what we do cant’ be overstated. Because when we begin to pay attention to what we do as photographers we get involved in composing our work. And when we get involved in composing our work, our work immediately improves.
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