Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Contemplative Photographer's Bible...

"Women move differently through the world…A great traveler…is a kind of introspective; as she covers the ground outwardly, so she advances fresh interpretations of herself inwardly.”  
 Lawrence Durrell

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great Transcendentalist philosopher of the 19th century advised that everyone should compile their own "bible"- a collection of inspirations, quotations, poems and passages to fuel their contemplative practice.  Although the word "bible" has a strong Judeo-Christian connotation, it actually refers to any collection of  important texts or books gathered over time and for a common purpose.  In Medieval times a Book of Hours, or individual prayer book for the liturgical hours, was popular for people to refer to on a daily basis.  The books were often customized to suit the individual and were sometimes illuminated with lovely illustrations if they could afford it.  This summer I began to compile my own Bible/Book of Hours to inspire me on my journey as a contemplative photographer.  I wanted to create a holding place where I could listen to "the echo of inspired words" (- Phil Cousineau.) and who couldn't benefit from that!

   I have always been a collector of quotations.  Jotted hastily down on scraps of paper or post-it notes, they often suffered a similar fate...they ultimately were misplaced over time and hence the wisdom they had to offer me was likewise lost.  I pledged to begin a more disciplined practice with my new  Bible/Book of Hours.

The labyrith in Chartres Cathedral.
    If you begin your own, you can include quotes from your favorite photographers about their process of making images, passages from books that you find inspiring, poems and, of course, you should "illuminate" your book with your photographs or other pertinent visuals! For now, I am writing out the passages and quotes by hand.  I believe there is a subtle power in the hand-written word. Ancient people felt the written word was sacred.  I find that by slowly scripting each word, it somehow binds it to me on a very personal level. For the time being, I am keeping them in a file box.  Perhaps at a later date I will want to bind them more permanently in some way.

    Since this could quickly become over whelming, I'm going to create individual "books" in my box by dividing them with titled spacers.  My first, not surprisingly given this summer's trip to France, is called "The Art of Pilgrimage".  Down the road (pun firmly intended), when I have accumulated hundreds of quotes in all different areas, I can more easily find what I am looking for.  No sense having all these inspirational ideas if you can't locate them when you want to! I might even spin off the biblical metaphor a bit more and create a section entitled "Wisdom of the Prophets" to hold all the wonderful quotes from the masters of the photographic medium I come across! 

   One of my "illuminations" that I'm including in this first "book" on pilgrimage is a copy of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral (above) so I can relive the amazing experience I had when I walked it this summer!  I purchase a "finger labyrinth" while I was there and I can retrace my steps whenever I wish, even sitting in my comfortable chair!

"Illuminations are not illustrations.
They are spiritual meditations on a text..."
Fr Michael Patella speaking about
the St. John's Bible project.
(This site shows the first hand
illuminated bible produce in 500 years!
It is an amazing work of art.)

    Now, when I think "What was that lovely phrase I read recently on pilgrimage?" I'll be able to find it in my personal Bible/Book of Hours (or at least, for now,  I can rummage through the box!).

"Traveler, there is no path,
Paths are made by walking."
Antonio Mchado
   If any readers have a quote they would like to share, please post a comment!  I'd love to hear from you!

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