Saturday, March 29, 2014

Layers of Meaning...

    When I photograph in the landscape I am acutely aware of the layered quality of the physical space I'm in.  I know that it requires that I carefully and patiently peel back layer after layer until I reach the core essence of the place.

    I can rarely achieve that level of awareness on one short visit.  It requires time.  Perhaps even returning several times to a location.  It also requires an understanding and acceptance of the possibility that what we are looking at may have more than one meaning, perhaps a deeper and more profound one.   In this way the landscape is a bit like an iceberg, a great portion of it is under the water, not obvious to the casual viewer who only glimpses the top 10%. Photographers who approach the landscape on a superficial level may make lovely images but they miss the soul of the place.

     Another way to peel back the layers of meaning is through the practice of Photo Lectio.  This process allows me to sit quietly with an image and see what shimmers to the surface.  "Reading" my image is like turning pages in a book.  Each page reveals something different.

     This is probably the most difficult part of the contemplative process for those new to the practice.  The quiet time of just sitting and waiting doesn't suit our contemporary fast paced culture.  It is, in fact, a quality that has to be nurtured and practiced everyday until it becomes a natural part of your life.

    Why not set up a time everyday to just sit and do nothing?  Don't meditate, don't listen to music, just be still.  Start slowly...5 minutes at most...and don't worry if your mind goes dashing off in many directions!  Lengthen the time as you become more comfortable in this state.  Allowing yourself to settle into the beauty of this way of being will help you enormously when you next go out into the landscape.  The layers of meaning will slowly reveal themselves to you over time because, unlike we human beings, Nature is never in a hurry!