ZEN & THE ART OF EMOTIONALLY EXPRESSIVE PHOTOGRAPHY
It is easy to make pictures that show where you were and what you saw. But what about pictures that show who you are and what you feel? It is a valid use of photography to make a snapshot for memories; it is troublesome when acquiring those snapshot moments substitutes for genuine experience. The artist’s challenge is to not just record but to respond. Photography can also be used as a tool for connecting to the world and helping find your place in it. Yet often the camera is an obstacle to experiencing the world and your own life directly. Taking pictures is can be used to remove and separate us from the stream of life, becoming an observer rather than participant. That observer status is sometimes touted as a goal, but if one seeks connection rather than separation you can use your camera as a tool to investigate deeper, both externally and internally. Photography as a tool for connection is there for those willing to not only see, but feel.
One method is to develop a stronger visual point of view. Personally, I am not interested in making documentary images (in the sense of passive or objective observer) but rather more personal pictures that reflect not just the outside world but also reflect the inner vision and state of mind of the photographer. It’s not just the “Mayan man” or “colorful weavers” but how you react, respond to and ultimately connect with these people and events. I am always more interested in how things ‘feel’ visually rather than how they ‘look’. My hope is that the photographs I make begin to build a bridge from the viewer back to not only the people or place but the emotions felt when the exposure was made. It is about seeing all places, things and moments as sacred and less about making distinctions.
To facilitate this emphasis on vision over technique I have learned to simplify my approach as well as my tools. I often use one camera, one lens, one type of film. This is done in part to distinguish myself from the ‘tricks’ of the travel photographer; who seek to sensationalize the differences and emphasize surface details like exotic fabric colors. I want to enable myself to engage with my subject rather than worry about making lens and camera choices. My energy goes into the subject and situation rater than equipment choices. I want my photographs to be visually strong yet quiet, simple and of substance, rather than decorative. Vision over equipment! Passion over passiveness! I am trying to penetrate deeper, working past stereotypes- even my own, to a place of deeper understanding and empathy, where there are more similarities than differences and where spirit is celebrated rather than sublimated.
©Douglas Beasley 2011
Reprinted from Tensegrity News