Saturday, December 13, 2014

Making Meaning Through Contemplative Photography: Part One

   The ego needs success to thrive,
the soul needs only meaning.

- Richard Rohr

  It took me a long time to realize that the role photography was to play in my live had no relationship to any form of "success" least in financial terms.  When I gave up the continual quest for exhibitions and sales I began to focus more on personal meaning and my relationship to the landscape, to everything I encounter, changed.

In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder.  This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry - it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.

- Henri Cartier-Bresson

   What we receive from the landscape is in part dependent on selectivity.  We do not sit passively on the shore...we actively engage with the landscape on a heart level.  We must then select from the wealth of gifts it is bestowing on us every moment.  Through that selection process we can discern meaning.

   I have been watching the slow and undulating transformations of the pond this month as it freezes, melts and refreezes almost on a daily basis.  It is a beautifully choreographed dance that I am witnessing.  The interplay of light and water, liquid or frozen, is a constant marvel.  Finding just the right point in all that was before me where that dance most clearly manifested itself to me was my task...the image above was the result.

   In Howard Zehr's wonderful book on contemplative photography that I wrote about on December 3, 2014, he devotes a whole chapter to "making meaning".  That phrase is important because we don't merely "find" a meaning in the landscape as much as we "make" meaning through our selection and composition.  Again, it is an active rather that a passive interaction with the landscape.  Tomorrow, I will continue these thoughts on how we can make meaning through our camera work.


kimmanleyort said...

I love how you make meaning from your very contemplative work. I think this part is not often talked about in contemplative photography circles. But, you're absolutely right that even in the way we frame, we're making meaning.

Patricia Turner said...

I've really found that to be true at the pond...more than I've experienced anywhere else.