Back in Jan 2015 I enrolled on a 10 wk practical philosophy course dragging my long suffering friend Grace along with me - I was having a tough time personally and was looking for something to support me with the challenges I was facing (link to free course below). Within weeks of starting the course I started to feel better and I began to notice a startling connection between my Photography and the Philosophy I was learning.
Some really key messages began to ring out each week at my class and they continue to do so. A specific one, very early on was ‘Anxiety is worrying about tomorrow, depression is worrying about yesterday - when we are truly in the moment, neither can exist’. Wow!! This one hit me right between the ears and I began to realise that when I am ‘properly’ taking pictures I am not worrying about any of the problems I might have that day. The camera helps me to be truly connected to that moment. During one of the early philosophy lessons we looked at levels of awareness and I realised I’d been in ‘waking sleep’ through times in my life. Kind of just going through the motions - wake, snooze, wake, dog walk, work, eat, drink, sleep, repeat. There have been many fantastic times along the way but I was beginning to realise these could be more regular and heartfelt with just a few simple changes and practice.
‘When one realises one is asleep, at that moment one is already half awake’ P.D. Ouspensky
When talking to my tutor David Nock about the relationship I was seeing between photography and philosophy he wisely said ‘‘well they are both practices where we are simply seeking to capture the light of the moment’’
With this in mind I have spent the last 3 years being more aware of how photography (and other creative practices) effect the people I work with and teach. I have talked to people about why they like taking pictures and how it makes them feel and the responses are only ever positive. I have looked at how photography makes me feel and I have witnessed countless moments where photography and the use of cameras helps people from all walks of life, every age and every ability to feel better.
I’ve seen how 2 year old children that are struggling to settle into a new care environment connect and build relationships with each other and the unfamiliar space around them when playing with a camera.
I’ve had a blind student that took great portraits through his rapport with his subjects and knowing when the picture is sharp by listening to the camera.
I’ve worked with terminally ill adults in end of life care shooting positive self portraits and sharing memories of what photographs mean to them.
I’ve worked with survivors of rape and sexual violence, looked after children, the recently bereaved, women on probation, teenagers with severe mental health issues and many more and seen how they are able to express positive emotions through the lens and to be in the moment.
‘That which is in front of you is your teacher’ author unknown.
American photographer Chase Jarvis says ‘The best camera is the one you have in your hand now.’ and I have to say I agree. Of course I need cameras with extra bells and whistles to do my job as a photographer but often my most enjoyable camera is in my pocket at all times - my phone camera.
All too often the technology in our lives saps our time, attention, energy and happiness. Occasionally we are controlled by it - in fact one of my students is creating a fantastic body of work shooting just that at the moment -when reviewing her work we are repeatedly struck by the lack of smiles people show when consumed by their devices oh and there’s actually a health condition now called tech-neck. But there is a time when people do demonstrate obvious happiness when engaging with their device and that’s normally when they are taking a picture.
There are normally 2 reasons for getting your phone out to take a picture:
To prove we’ve been somewhere, got something, ate something or met someone and to post on social media and get as many likes as possible or..
Because something stopped you in your tracks - pricked your consciousness and awareness and brought your attention to that beautiful, funny, emotional, never to be repeated present moment.
It’s the second one we should try to do more of and the first I now do much less. I’m 3.5 years ‘clean’ of Facebook now because it was sapping my energy but instead for my social media fix I do follow a lot of great and inspirational photographers on Instagram @kategreenphotog.
Through the philosophy school I have also been introduced to mantra based meditation and whilst I’m not the most disciplined of students I do have a new way to still those circling thoughts and see past the shadows. I’ve learned to connect with my senses so while pausing to make a picture I try to sense what I can hear, feel, taste and smell too.
You can only connect with your senses in the present moment - try it now!
So I’m learning now to pause much more in my life - to be more still, to notice the light and to see the amazing things that are right in front of me. And where there is light there are shadows but learning to work with these is all part of it. Sometimes I’ll take a picture and sometimes I remember not to and just experience that moment. I’m learning to become a ‘human being’ not a ‘human doing’. I’m using my technology instead of it using me and expressing my emotions through the lens. I’ve developed a process I use for this called P.A.U.S.E.
Here are a few tips if you fancy giving it a try:
P - Pause - Imagine you’re shooting with film so there is a perceived value and limit attached to pressing that button and pause to consider your composition.
A - Attention - Recognise what it is that caught your attention and think about how you can best represent that in the picture you make.
U - Unconscious - Creative ideas often come from the unconscious mind. Take the pressure off yourself. Forget about how many likes you might get for this picture. Reflect on how you are making (not taking) this picture purely for you, to celebrate this moment which, when passed, you will never retrieve. Tap into the unconscious that called for your attention.
S - Senses - Connect with your other senses and think about how you can communicate anything that arises through your picture.
E - Emotion - Think about how you feel e.g. calm, peaceful, happy, sad, angry and try to find a way to express this through your image.
Why not have a go and if you do feel like sharing then let me know. You can find me on instagram @kategreenphotog and tag your pics #capturingthelightofthemoment.
If you are interested in attending a workshop then drop me a line.
Thanks for reading and please share if you know someone this might appeal to.
The Black Dog - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc
Midland school of Practical philosophy http://www.philosophymidlands.org/our-courses/introductory-philosophy-10w/
A Journey into Chaos: Creativity and the Unconscious https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115302/