Friday, December 27, 2013

Teaching Patience...

  When I received the latest edition of Harvard Magazine, I turned immediately to an article that had caught my attention,  The Power of Patience: Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention.  Of course, patience is the third "Be" in my mantra for contemplative photographers...Be Still, Be Present, Be Patient, and Be Persistent.

   Professor Jennifer L. Roberts, who chairs the doctoral program in American Studies at Harvard goes on in her article to argue for opportunities to practice slow learning.  "I want to give them (the students) the permission and the structures to slow down."

   Although she is referring to the study of paintings, I found many connections to contemplative photography as well.  She requires students to spend a "painfully long time looking at the object."   Her use of the word painful is significant.

   We have evolved into a culture that seek immediate results and rapid responses.  But, as Roberts points out, vision is not immediate.  There are "details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive."  It is the same  with the landscape.

   What this exercise shows students is that
just because you have looked at something
doesn't meant that you have seen it.

    I would take Roberts statement one step further. Just because you've seen something doesn't mean you understand it. For that you have to "behold" it...reach out and shake hands with your vision.  That is what a contemplative photographer attempts to do.

    I find it reassuring that my alma mater is encouraging their students to slow down and savor the object of their attention. I fear many of them will take awhile to get use to this concept of slow time. It will take a great deal of effort for these young people who were born into a world of instant communication to realize that, as Professor Roberts says...

...time is not just a negative space, a passive intermission
to be overcome. It is a productive or formative force in itself.

   Amen to that.


Bret said...

Great blog posting. I love the professor's quote about vision not being immediate and that "details and orders and relationships take time to perceive." As a photographer I often look back on old photographs I've taken and realize that even though I took the photograph, at the moment I captured it, I really didn't see the beauty of the true story occurring within my camera frame. I also find it to be the same with past friendships and relationships, in that at the time I was co-creating them I wasn't wise enough to perceive how important the details were to the outcome of these friendships and relationships. So my current life goal is to be wise enough to realize how special the moments are that I'm living in while not over thinking them to the point that I lose the joy in them. No small task. LOL!

Patricia Turner said...

Wonderful reflection Bret! Making meaningful photographs takes time and patience and maintaining good friendships also requires us to make time and be patient with the low points. It is something we all need to remember. Thank you for taking the time to respond!

kimmanleyort said...

That is so interesting, using the word painful. It can be painful for us to maintain attention - to push past the boredom and see something new - but so worth it when we do.

Patricia Turner said...

Yes, patience is one of my key principles of contemplative photography...and perhaps the most difficult to cultivate.