Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Act of Seeing

It has occurred to me that having presented this array of images for your enjoyment it might be nice to talk a bit about the why and how of my photographic process.
I picked up the camera again, after only cursory use for travel and art documentation, in 2006 when I was recovering from heart bypass surgery. As a lifelong artist, I was looking for a way to express myself in my weakened state and saw the camera as a perfect tool. While I was unable to do the more physical acts of the fiber art I had been dedicated to for years, the act of seeing was what I found most provocative and inspiring. The camera, especially a digital camera, made no demands of me physically. Even in the weeks and months of recuperation lying on the living room sofa, or when healthier venturing out into our yard, I could pull out this tool and make an image. Almost instantly I could witness my creation, or should I say my recollection of seeing. Here was a tool that provided me with instant replay and collected those moments to share with others.
After looking death squarely in the face, I felt pretty fragile and found myself drawn to recording the kindred spirits around me in the even more fleeting and ephemeral lives of flowers. I started with an orchid plant that was given to me in my recovery. I was seeking confirmation of the power of renewal and life after coming to terms with death, up close and personal. What developed was a body of images that were intimate portraits of flowers.
I had been practicing daily meditation for 7 years at this point and found myself approaching the use of the camera as a meditative tool. Here was a way to record the moments of awareness and insight coming from an open, "beginner's mind". Photography is for me a contemplative process; opening the lens to the world as I do my mind to record the places of wonder. Indeed the way of seeing was both an opening and a focusing in. Once contact has been made with a point of energy, something I later refer to as a "flash of perception" that becomes the subject of the composition cropped in camera. This phrase I learned through the contemplative photography workshop I took in 2007. The flash describes that first moment of seeing before all the ideas and concepts about what is seen take over. While we may think we passively receive all of our world through our eyes, in truth we are quite selective in our perceptions, registering only a small amount of the stimuli available to us in any given moment. When we do receive that stimuli we quickly leap to our mental concepts about that vision, labeling, categorizing and deciding if it is something we like, dislike or are neutral towards. We are constantly editing, cropping and revising our "reality" through the filtered lens of our mind. With each image taken I am invited to open the lens of my vision a little further, to see fresh, to challenge my habitual patterns of relating to the world.

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