Photography as Meditation

In Digital, Inspiration, Still Life

A couple of months ago, I officially began work on a book.  I shared a bit in this podcast and in this post.  In a nutshell, it will be a book of photographs paired with short written reflections…pairings that illustrate and explore the in-between moments of life.

For some years, I’ve been keen on noticing the small details of a day, the things that fill me with gratitude as well as the things that sometimes drain me.  Through this noticing, photography has become meditation for me.  It’s a tool, a lifeline to which I turn regularly.  Sometimes the act of making a photograph helps me slow down and focus (literally and otherwise) on what is around me; the act of making a photograph brings me into the present, and into myself.  Other times I’m already in a space of gentle focus and I pick up my camera because I want to immerse myself a little deeper, want to slow down just a little bit more.  The intention behind the photographs I make are quietly clear to me.

I’m not pressing the shutter because something’s pretty (though it might be); I’m not pressing the shutter because there are fantastic compositional elements (though there might be); I’m not pressing the shutter because my kids are sweet (though they surely are).  I’m pressing the shutter because, on some level, I need to.  Whether moving towards slowness, or already resting within it, these particular photographs – and the writing I pair with them – are meditations for me.

 

Meditation is, in a broad sense, awareness; whatever a person does with awareness and intention can become meditation.  Watching breath can be meditation.  Sitting on a beach and watching the waves can be meditation.  Washing the dishes can be meditation.  And, yes, pressing the shutter can be meditation.

The word meditation derives from the Latin words meditari (which means to think, to contemplate, to ponder) and mederi (to heal).  When I think about how I shoot much of the time, how I write much of the time…this word and its origins are fitting.  Contemplation and healing.  Yes and yes.

 

I don’t know exactly when this kind of shooting started for me.  I only know that it developed quietly over time, and that this is how and why I shoot now.  Something pulls (or pushes) me closer, something whispers yes, go, look.  And I do.

My photography and writing practice has shaped (and continues to shape) me.  Having this practice doesn’t mean that I’m totally zen and everything flows smoothly one hundred percent of the time.  Not so.  But…having this practice does mean that I see the world in a softer way; it means that, in looking at smaller pictures within my life, I better understand the larger picture of me, and my life.  Contemplation and healing.  Yes and yes.  I need to do this.

Someday I hope to write in this space and tell you more about my book.  For now, I press the shutter and put pen to paper.  I move quickly when needed and slowly when able.  I sink into everything that lies in between.  Because I need to.

 

xMichelle

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If you’d like to explore photography as a tool for mindful living, I’m teaching over at Brave Girl University.  If you sign up for my class, use this affiliate link pretty please (it’s how I’m compensated for my work) …and know that, once registered, you have access to ALL the classes there!

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. michelle… i always find your words true and reflective, easy and comforting – like an old sweatshirt. and your images, too. simple and profound at the same time. i’m not sure picture taking is meditation for me… interestingly, i look at images later on and feel this way, but not so much in the moment – maybe i’m trying too hard. i’ll have to think about this the next time i pick up my camera. xo

    • thank you for your kind words, Beth. that’s *such* a nice complement.

      maybe the meditation doesn’t have to be in the act of taking the picture. who’s to say the meditation can’t happen later…as it seems to do for you, when you’re looking at the images after the fact? I think that’s wonderful! as with so much in life, there are variations on a theme. the important thing is your awareness…wherever you cultivate it. xo

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