Sunday, December 14, 2014

Making Meaning Through Contemplative Photography: Part Two

Interaction - 2 December 2014
When we put a frame 
around an image,
taking it out of its 
context as we do
when we photograph, we
 are in fact constructing a
 version of reality.  We
are imposing a way of 
seeing, a meaning,
upon the reality that 
we are receiving.

- Howard Zehr

   This is how Zehr begins his chapter on making meaning in photography.  I am developing a much greater appreciation of this idea through my pond abstractions.  I can make the meaning more obvious by the way I frame the image.

   What I ask myself before I make a photograph on location relates strongly to my Taoist leanings.  "Where is the energy of this place at this moment?All landscape has an intrinsic energy or Qi in Taoist terms.  This day, it was in the interactions and tensions between the areas of frozen and open water in the pond.  So, I narrowed my viewpoint to a specific area of the pond's surface where I thought the energy of interaction was the strongest.  The resulting image is above.  I think it is one of my most powerful images of the pond to date.

    When you can discern the Qi in a place you will find yourself settling into what the Taoist call Te.  It is a state where you can just seamlessly relate to what is in front of you and the photographs you can make will resonate with personal meaning for you.  It doesn't happen every time, maybe not even half the time, but when it does you will know...your photographs will show it.  I think it shows in this image.

    When you next go out to photograph, ask yourself, "Where do I feel the energy lies at this place at this moment?" and compose your photographs around that area.  There you will be able to distill and manifest meaning but remember, it will not be the same the next day.  Energy flows and changes and your role as a contemplative photographer is to make meaning from what you that particular moment.

   If you want to read a bit about the Taoist principles of Te and Qi, you can link to this past post...



kimmanleyort said...

I love it. Where is the energy? And, I definitely see it in your image.

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you Kim. If I'm in the landscape and I cannot answer the "Where is the energy?" question then I know that my images will lack intensity...they will be more like "snapshots".

Kate Kennington Steer said...

I am loving your pond series Patricia, and this one is a wonderful montage of arcs of colour and texture. Movement of ice from wind on water; movement in ice from the depths below. Fascinating.

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you Kate. You've hit upon it exactly...the energy of the interaction of water and ice.