Thursday, March 24, 2011

Conversation with a Camera

Mesquite/Movement/MeditationPhotographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.
~Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching

Taking photos has become integral to how I experience life.

For some years I have been on a quest to learn how to take pictures I like. The technical and creative lessons have paled compared to what I have learned. I’ve learned how to listen in on the conversation of Now.

The act of picking up my camera starts a ritual. Holding my camera in my hands silences chatty inner voices. I focus. I listen. It is then I can begin to hear the quiet stories that are being lived out around me.

I once listened to the short story of a dead beetle at my feet. I’ve listened to the dramatic tales of seeds on voyages far from home. I’ve heard the synchronized breaths of a boy and his horse, both so young as to have not yet forgotten the art of conversing with Now. I’ve heard a whole chapter in the gesture of an old man touching the place of a missing button on his shirt.

Through my camera, I’ve learned to listen much like the way my camera sees, giving attention to that which is, to welcome those vanishing, unexpected things.

Later, I look back at a photo I took and can recall the sun that hid in and out of the clouds on that particular morning. I remember my dog’s nose on my neck as I knelt to get close to a small flower. In the outer edges of the image, I recognize that unnameable sense of loss I carried and struggled to let go of that day.

The photo, even a thousand photos are still just a fraction of the conversation. When I look at a wildflower photo a year later, what I see most is myself now, different and transformed by those topics then.

Perhaps we naturally love photos, not only for their artistry, but because we recognize them as hints of the ongoing conversation we are all having with Time.

And the real beauty is that Now is always the subject.

This is an article I wrote as a guest last month for Kris Cahill's blog, where she featured "communication" as the month's theme.