I love that Labour Day weekend is here and I don’t have to go back to school. Not that I didn’t love school — I was a good student and I loved learning — but elementary and high school were way too regimented for my free spirit. CEGEP and university were where I really soared.
I love that I can continue learning and discovering and creating and practising skills so many years later, but now at my own pace and free of the pressure of judgement and comparison. This time is truly a gift.
Nothing pleases me as much as a new recipe to try…a new taste combination…something I have never thought of before. This week it was melon jam, inspired by a crop of cantaloupe that we couldn’t eat fast enough. The colour is sublime, but I wish I could give you all a taste too!
Rebecca Solnit On being a “bad Buddhist” … “Buddhism is your guiding star, not the planet you live on necessarily every day.”
Kim Manley Ort on Pivotal Photos I read this and immediately related to what Kim described as a “pivotal” photo. They’re “the ones that made me see my life, photography, and even myself differently. They’re not necessarily the best, but they sent me in a new direction.” If you want to understand more about your photography and yourself, go through your images … I think your “pivotal photos” will jump out at you. Some of my pivotal images
I want to sincerely thank all those who took time to comment on my recent attempts at poetry, with so much encouragement. A kind reader said she found my poem “thought-provoking and relatable” which made me very happy, although a bit surprised, since I was hoping it might be…
I’ve now seen several Visual Q&As and each one has been hugely inspiring. Kim Manley Ort published a post recently in which she answered the same questions as did Nathan Wirth with a series of images rather than words. She calls it a “Visual CV.”
I immediately thought it would be a wonderful exercise in self-awareness. And that is a key ingredient in moving our photography forward — more so than new gear or more courses or new techniques.
But I was concerned that the questions would be hard to answer.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it came together. Once I tapped into my intuitive sense and honoured the feeling of what was the best answer, it just flowed.
It’s the kind of thing that is really beyond thought…the answers just present themselves when you look through your own images. Thought and trying too hard just gets in the way, as it does in life.
Of course our pictures are as much about ourselves as they are about the subject matter — more so, actually…so a little excavation yields great riches. Why not give it a try yourself?
Who are you?
What is your trademark photographic style?
What truly inspires you?
Where do you go when you close your eyes?
Where is home for you?
How would you describe your lifestyle?
What makes a great shot?
How do you view the world?
What is an important lesson you’ve learned?
I devoted the month of February to experimenting with abstract photography. Guided and inspired by the generous and talented Kim Manley Ort and accompanied by an enthusiastic group of kindred souls on Flickr, I challenged myself to see reality around me in a very different way.
Here are some of my key discoveries:
- Abstract photography is a vehicle to get more in touch with your own instincts, emotions and passions. It removes the literal from your images. You don’t need to know what the subject is to like it. For example, I connect with the image above not because of what it is — dish towels, actually — but because of how it makes me feel: energized, empowered and part of the earth. The green, deep blue and orange are to me the elemental colours of fire, water, sky and earth.
- Abstract photography is just plain fun. It is a doorway to joy. It gives you permission to play, to bend and break the rules, to follow your bliss and not worry about the result. Like a child with finger paints, sometimes you make a big mess — and other times you are unexpectedly delighted by a beautiful and meaningful image. It doesn’t really matter; it’s all good.
- In the future, I think I’ll come back to abstract photography any time I’m in the creative doldrums, when I want to shake myself out of habitual and stale patterns. This secret antidote might just work for you too. Part of what freezes us up when we pick up the camera is a desire to make “good” or “popular” images, and we often judge ourselves against similar types of images made by others. But when we free ourselves to create something that is not at all recognizable, then we are liberated from judging it against criteria that are not our own. And since we’re also not so bound up by needing to achieve the perfect exposure, composition and framing, we are released to take more risks and experience the possibility of creating something new and different. Just that excitement alone can reinvigorate our photography.
- Abstract photography can also help you improve your “regular” photography. How is that? Making abstracts trains you to see more directly what lies at the base of any image — lines, shape, patterns, light, colour. When the image is something you are familiar with, you can become distracted by your ideas and preconceived notions of the thing, and your perceptions are not as pure as they might be. But when you remove the label from what is happening in the frame, you see only how light, line, shape and colour are dancing together. That is all. This heightened awareness can make for fresher and more exciting images, abstract or not.
- I commented in an earlier post that “one of the things I love the most about this form of photography is that it keeps revealing just how varied and mysterious the world really is when looked at through different eyes — there is so much more to see and enjoy than we usually let ourselves. And you don’t have to go far. It is astounding how many surprises you can find even in your own home — in the few feet around you.” (I doubt I would have seen the creative possibilities of light on dish towels before this course!)
Now, you definitely don’t need a course to play around with abstracts. You just need an open mind and a desire to try different things. Going really close up on familiar objects is one technique that can yield interesting abstracts. So are deliberately blurring your images and even adding camera movement (ICM) while you are blurring them. And if you are near water, even puddles, do try out abstract reflections. These were some of my favorite images this month.
But I would highly recommend taking Kim’s online course if abstract photography appeals to you at all. You will find her a wonderful catalyst to creativity. The course was a perfect balance of reading about abstract artists, techniques and ideas and real practice. The feedback from Kim and the other participants is always supportive and encouraging. And I found seeing such a wide diversity of abstract work emerging from the group to be exciting and inspiring. The course has started me — and many others — on a continuing journey that I know will deepen and change and keep me engaged for a long time to come.
Kim Manley Ort offers a wide range of equally exciting online courses as well. Why not sign up for her newsletter so you will be the first to know what she has coming up next?
Out of clutter, find simplicity.
December is here and thus begins my simplicity project.
This has been inspired by Kim Manley Ort and so I am joining her in posting images that are simpler and more minimal than usual. It’s a way to remind myself to focus on what is really essential in an image and in the rest of life too.
If this also appeals to you, there’s a Flickr group devoted to Photographic Simplicity that you are welcome to join.
will shopping bring you true joy
when what you are dying to give
is your heart?
Over the holidays, my hope is that we all make time for more simple and real connection — with our loved ones, our communities, our fellow inhabitants of this unique planet, our natural world and our true selves.
I’ll be back on December 1 to start a practice of simplicity with Kim Manley Ort.
- Double exposure: Leaves and the river in the fall
I never know where I’m going to find creative inspiration next…Sometimes, I see or feel something in other’s people’s images or words. I may experience a sharp flash of insight or a soft sense of recognition that washes over me like a fine mist at the seashore.
Inspiration may come as I look through the viewfinder, or I may not feel it until I see my raw images onscreen. It may abandon me for days…only to return with a shudder of realization or a frisson of enthusiasm.
One thing I know is that human beings are all creative. That’s one characteristic we all share — although how we express it differs radically. Sometimes it is used for ill. Most often, for good.
How we choose to live out our creativity is at once a deeply serious yet profoundly joyous matter. And how we engage creatively with ourselves and with the world deserves some conscious deliberation once in a while…
Since this is a blog about photography…the question becomes how do we talk about what we do as photographers? I don’t mean the “how” — there is an untold number of informative books, articles, videos and courses about that.
I mean the why.
I ask myself why I am so entranced by pointing this boxy black gizmo at patterns of light and shadow and colour out in the world. Freeman Patterson offers one answer that speaks to me. But there are also others who help me understand my own feelings about photography — about creativity, originality and authenticity.
Lately David Duchemin and Kim Manley Ort have added to the depth of this important discussion with utterly thoughtful contributions. Each has just published a heartfelt reflection on the art and craft of photography and why they do what they do that I urge you to read.
I know I love a piece of writing when I find myself copying down several quotes from a short piece. Thank you Kim and David.
Photography, for me, is not so much about self-expression or even expression of the subject, as it is an expression of the connection between the two. Essence meets essence.
Kim Manley Ort
Evolution of a Photographer: Part 1
Evolution of a Photographer: Part 2
Chasing authenticity is like chasing originality. Spend too much time doing it and you’ll lose sight of the thing you were aiming for. Explore. Play. Follow your gut. You’ll know when it’s you and when it’s not.
On authenticity. Again.