Where do we begin?
By first picking up the camera, wandering around until something catches our eye?
Or perhaps we set up a still life, or plan a family shoot—either for personal work or contract.
Or maybe it’s a whisper of inspiration by the window sill, on the tabletop, in the child’s smile—and this spark becomes an invitation to put viewfinder to eye. Click.
There are days when, as photographers, we simply feel a deep need to make an image. We might not know what we want that image to be; we know only that we must make it. Other days, the inspiration is already stirred and simmering within; we know what we will frame and we get to it. And it hardly matters if we know what we’ll shoot before or after picking up the camera. It only matters that we do, in fact, pick up the camera.
In the words of Italo Calvino: The ear draws forth the story. Calvino is perhaps speaking to the conversation that happens between writer and reader—the idea of listening, of engaging, of connecting and being part of a story together.
For photographers, we might say that the eye draws forth the story. The photographer’s eye recognizes story in the light, the subject; we look, we pause, we click. For the viewer, the eye is pulled by the representation of that light, that subject, that visual story created by the photographer.
It is a conversation. Listening, seeing, engaging, connecting. Being part of a story together—photographer and viewer and photograph—if only for a moment. The photographs we make are invitation, story, dialogue.
Ram Dass said: The quieter you become, the more you can hear. Or in the case of photographers, the more we can see.
However we come to making our photographs, the quiet comes first. It is imperative, instructional, inspiring. The quiet makes room for a conversation with light and subject and, ultimately, with the viewer.
And maybe this quiet is its own beginning and end: When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence. Wise and beautiful words from Ansel Adams. To you, my photographer friend, I say this: spend some time with quiet and stillness. That is where most conversations begin and end…and live on.
Wishing you pockets of stillness…