Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Receptive Mind...

   I suppose if I had to point to only one influence in my camera work (and I assure you I have many) it would have to be Minor White.  Even when I was studying photography years ago, long before I even knew there was such a thing as contemplative photography, I new Minor White had a unique approach to the medium I loved.

...a very receptive state of mind...not unlike a sheet of film itself...seemingly inert, yet so sensitive that a fraction of a second's exposure conceives life in it.    -Minor White

   I loved the idea of the receptive mind and the notion implied in the quote that the landscape is a creative force engendering life in the mind of the photographer.  Pretty powerful stuff.

   I've floated the idea in this blog before that the landscape can be a co-creator in the image.  It is through this subtle dialogue, not the ego-filled monologue of traditional photography,  that the photographer can come into partnership with the landscape and reveal the hidden truth that lies within...within the landscape and the photographer alike.

   Nurturing the receptive mind is paramount for the contemplative photographer.  There is a paradox however and it is revealed in another Minor White quote...

Let the subject generate it's own
photograph.  Become a camera.

     Here White seems to be advocating complete passivity in the photographer; to become a thoughtless machine.  I doubt this is truly possible or even desirable but a highly receptive mind most certainly is.  Reaching a state where one can welcome the landscape into the process, listening for its whispers, before one even raises the camera to the eye, is allowing the mind to attain a highly receptive state of being.  I don't want to be a thoughtless machine, sorry Mr. White, but I do want to nurture a receptive mind.  For me there is a give and take, a gentle dance, that occurs when I move about the landscape in this way and I feel we both benefit from it.




Bill DeLanney said...

Great post. Minor White's images and thinking are very powerful. I have one of his book's "Notations in Passing" and it's like an exploration in perception.Simple images with a very strong depth to them.Thank you, Bill

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you Bill! Yes, Minor White has been a mentor for many photographers. Although he may not have called himself a "contemplative photographer" as such, he most certainly was by any definition of the term.