"Photography is drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, then sniff, sniff, sniff - being sensitive to coincidence. First you loose yourself and then it happens." - Henri Cartier-Bresson
The second characteristic of the Photographic Sage is their reliance on the "eye" and not the "I". Simply put, the Sage attempts to rid themselves from their sense of Self. If the photographer has truly listened to what the landscape is trying to teach them, then, in a sense, it's the landscape that makes the photograph, not the photographer.
This may seem, at first, contradictory to what I have previously written about. The Contemplative Photographer seeks their own soul in what they photograph, how they compose it and how they later edit the captured image. They make it a very personal process. I would reconcile the two by saying that contemplation brings you to a particular moment, a special place... it leads you gently by the hand and then tells you to "sit down and shut up!" You must clear your mind, let go, and listen. You can't do that if your mind is cluttered with "I's"...I want to do this, I want my image to look like that, I want people to like my work, I want to make a "significant" image (whatever that may be!). There is a great danger in this way of thinking. When a sense of self predominates it's like closing one eye and squinting with the other - it narrows your world to a pin point and makes it a whole lot less likely that you will let yourself go "off script". It also makes you reject subjects or places as "not you".
If you hunt only where rabbits live
then all you will catch is rabbits!
When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Tao te Ching - 2
Now Some Practical Stuff...
Put together a collection of 20-30 photographs you think represent your best work. Really look at them to see if there is a common thread that unites them. Do you see a specific "style" to your work? Good! That means that you have found a voice that suits you! You have found your "I"! Make a list of words that would describe that style. Now look at some of the photography books on your shelf. Take any photographer, make a list of words to describe their style...their particular way of photographing the world around them. It works every time. It is easy to find the "I".
A Little Practice for the Week:
Now is the time to go searching with the "Eye", not the "I". Take your list of words that describe your style and go to a place that you find interesting. Before you start to make photographs, review your list. You can not use any of those words! You must put the "I" away and use only your "Eye". Try to see the landscape in a new way, with new eyes. If you only shoot in color, shoot in black and white...if you mostly use a horizontal format, hold your camera vertically....if you only make crisp, in-focus images, try some soft focus ones...if you like the "long shot", get up close and personal. You may discover that your style is more flexibly defined, less restricted by past accomplishments. You might also find that over time, your "I" may subtly shift...evolve. This is what the artistic process is all about!
"When I have won a victory, I do not repeat my tactics
but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways."