Photography is all about relationship

The relationship of your eyes to your mind to your soul and their connection to your desire to photograph an object, is a complete process. And a unique process for each and every one of us.

In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci: “Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else”. But how do we do that when it comes to photography? And is it important that we understand this process?

So let’s take an example. I had the pleasure of being able to spend some quality time at a retreat centre. This offered me a chance to take a better look at my surroundings without time constraints. There were no expectations to create an image. And yet my eyes responded to something that engaged my mind and soul and the desire to capture its effects on me. Coloured pencils and pens in pots. That’s all it was. Simple as that. Yet totally inspiring!

A spontaneous reaction – eyes, mind, soul and capture – the image was there! A piece of my emotional history that I can return to with or without the aid of the photograph. The connection is immortalised for me and me alone! I am doing this for me with no-one else in mind. My creativity has come from only an emotional response and nothing else.

But now I want it to be perfect for me. What was a simple and quick response to a stimulus, has now become more protracted as I grapple with the technicalities of capturing the image perfectly. For example, last week I saw the most beautiful fir tree and in my mind and soul I pre-visualised my finished image. Unfortunately my phone did not capture the reality of the colours, warmth and texture that generated my original response. So I used my editing software to achieve that. The question is – whether the image is a less authentic/pure reflection of my soul, the more I edit it, taking longer to produce. Or does it actually envision what I saw and how I felt originally? Does it matter?

Learning how to see is something that you can’t teach somebody. You can learn the rules of artistic composition which is extremely useful and at times also extremely unhelpful because you can’t make everything fit to those rules. You sometimes need to learn to ignore them.

So once you see it you reach for your camera. You create your image; your record of that moment in time; that piece of light. And if this process has gone well hopefully you print it. More often nowadays it’s been shared on the internet in some form of social media. That way other people see just what you have been recording and hopefully you build a connection through your joint enjoyment of the image. 

But learning how to ‘see’ is often a ride of ups and downs. 

If it leads to a “like” on Facebook, or a “heart” on Instagram then psychologically you feel good about your work. Other people have enjoyed it and have taken time to respond to it. However, not everyone has the opportunity to look at your image let alone make any positive comment at all. A word of caution therefore – don’t let a lack of likes or hearts drive your confidence as a photographer. Remember your relationship is with the image, not with other peoples’ views of the image.

Historically to see images meant that you went to the library for a book, to a museum, a gallery, a stately home, or maybe you made your own art through photography, drawing or painting. Either to look at art or create your own was a conscious choice – you were in the moment enjoying the creativity. In other words, there was a relationship between the art you were either viewing or creating. Railway Art Posters of the 20th century, for example, were so engaging that it inspired you to want to experience what you had seen – these images of course were only seen if you were visiting a railway station and as a result the memory of that image stayed with you long after the initial viewing.

 

As members of a busy society we are constantly being bombarded with imagery one way or another throughout the day and as a result we distance ourselves from it. Therefore a connection is hard to make because we cannot be discerning enough due of the volume of stimulation. One more sunset becomes like all the rest.

We can lose sight of our individual creativity and its meaning for us as we are swamped by the impact of other peoples’ comparisons and judgements of our art.

We need to create the time to look, to feel and to capture. To step out of day to day distractions. To step into the mindfulness of the environment and to respond to the emotional reaction and how that conveys meaning within your art. 

Qualities of patience, practice and perseverance in combination work together to enhance the end result, whether this is at the point of capture with good technique or at the point of editing on the device used and the choice of paper on which the image is printed. Finally, the image is framed with care to bring about a cohesive platform for viewing, commenting and enjoying. It has a permanency and a life of its own. A validation of the eye, mind, soul, capture connection.

M

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