Monday, March 25, 2013

Hardware and Software...

"...the limitations of photography
are in yourself, for what we see
is only what we are."
-Ernst Haas

   This has been a constantly recurring theme on this blog - "We are our photographs" - so much so that I wondered if I should talk about it yet again.  But this is such an important issue to contemplative photographers that I decided that it cannot be discussed enough.  When I came across the quote above it seemed to pull together two crucial threads of inquiry central to this very important topic.

   The first is the idea of photography's limitations.  After all, the camera is only a tool.  While many photographers seem to fixate on the "hardware" - the cameras, lenses, tripods and the latest Photoshop program -the contemplative photographer embraces the "software" - their relationship to the landscape, their intuition and emotional responses to the subject.  No matter how sophisticated, expensive or complex your "hardware", without well developed "software" your photographs are only visual documents of the world and not the kind of spiritual encounters that will enrich your life or the lives of those who view your work.  When we are able to balance the two, the hardware and the software, we can make images that will truly speak volumes.

Stepping in Puddles
  The second thread of inquiry is the photographers limitations.  When I was studying creativity during a sabbatical leave from my teaching, I learned about a designation applied to thinking skills.  There was "hard thought" - primarily left brain thinking involving such things as analysis, objectification and rational thought processes.  "Soft Thought", in contrast, is more commonly ascribed to right brain thinking and includes things like intuition, emotional response and creative endeavors.  Out traditional school systems are profoundly geared towards "Hard Thought".  What I also learned was that while we use our whole brains - left and right - people tend to favor one or the other.  What is sad is that we tend to put down those whose preferential thinking patterns differ from our own. (Sound familiar?)  The scientific mind dismisses the artistic mind  and the artistic mind thinks the scientific mind is too uptight.  The truth is, both types of thinking are crucial.

   Contemplative photographers are definitely "soft thinkers" on the whole.  We are able to see the metaphors because these sorts of things are important to us.  We see not only what we want to see but what we NEED to see.  Contemplative photographers also tend to be playful and less likely to follow the "rules" that often define "hard thinkers".  I thought the photograph above was a good illustration of this.  Hard thinkers wear shoes and step over the the cracks in life...soft thinkers go barefoot and splash in the puddles!



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