Tuesday, September 18, 2012

PhotoTao Cards #1 - The Path

   Quite some time ago I got a box of cards based on the Tao te Ching.  They were to be used for reflection and to stimulate contemplation through the wisdom of the Tao. I thought, why not use that idea to inspire my photography?  So I set about to make my own PhotoTao cards as a way to generate new approaches to my photographic work.

    Unfortunately, the original "Tao Box", compiled by Priya Hemenway, is no longer in print. You can get a used one on Amazon.com and I recommend you get one if you can.  The illustrations on the front of the cards are beautiful and the translations on the back are illuminating.  My cards are really just little prompts for me to try if I'm in a bit of slump with my photography. I mentioned a few of these ideas in my series "Characteristics of the Photographic Sage" but this will give you an easy format to duplicate. You can create your own cards from the ideas I provide, using your own photographs to illustrate the front of the card, or invent your own! Copy and print the text below on card stock and cut out.  After you have a few (I'll be posting one every  week) keep them in your camera bag.  Pull one out from time to time and try the exercise.  I use to use this idea of "prompts" when I taught art. The kids loved the randomness of just drawing a card and following it's instruction...I do too!  It's a great way to jump start the process of creating interesting and inspiring photographs or to just think a bit differently about your process. I am always amazed at how beautifully the wisdom of the Tao applies to the art of photography.

Card #1

The Path 
The Tao is pure experience and complete acceptance.
You can not make things different from what they are.
Tao is the way of letting go effort and following the 
meandering path wherever it goes.

- Exercise -
Try to let go of preconceived ideas.  Do not try to
manipulate your shots.  Go to a place you normally
wouldn't find interesting and open yourself to experience
the moment in that place.  Do not plan your shots or try
to pre-visualize the composition.  
Just have fun and make lots of photographs! 

   This is a good exercise for me when I find myself getting too "thoughtful" with my work.  It happens! I like to do this exercise to "loosen" up. I call images I make during this exercise my photographic sketches.  I let the intuitive part of my brain take over.  You can find out a lot about who you are as a photographer by this exercise. After 15-20 minutes of this activity, I sit and play back my "sketches". I usually find that even though I may start out with the "big view", I keep getting closer and closer until I isolate a single element within the landscape. I guess it's the "details" that fascinate me! At least with a digital camera there is no worry about wasting film. This exercise makes the contemplative phase of my process more rich and revealing. Then, when I make my final photograph I know it is what most reflects my experience of the landscape.

     I will be posting a different PhotoTao card every week...there are 50 in total.  I hope you will enjoy the spontaneity of them when you are photographing and I encourage you to create your own. If you come up with one you like especially, share it with us all! They are a fun and light hearted way to try a new approach and we all could benefit from that.   Enjoy!

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