Take a deep breath in…hold it…now exhale….
Mindfulness is filling our world right now. Our world is hectic, ever digital, shorter-scheduled, higher-pressured, and it creates angst. Perhaps the cause is right there in that sentence, but whatever it is we’re constantly looking for ways out. Yoga seems the most popular, but for me it’s photography. No matter the stress caused by taking photos or retouching them, the rewards are ever greater, but is there any scientific basis here or is it just me? And perhaps, more importantly, how do we keep photography fun and not let it become ‘labour’ in terms of mindfulness? It’s this specific point I’ll try to address.
Simply holding a camera can induce mindfulness—having it in your hand and being ready, being aware. Scanning the environment around you for that great shot, and singling out the good qualities of the world into one scene. Photography, in this sense, isn’t just about having your ‘main camera,’ though, it’s also about recognising when you’ve chanced upon something beautiful and reaching for your phone to document it, supporting the awareness of the immediate experience and bringing it focus, alongside creativity, rather than putting it aside. It’s often the case, in fact, that the memory of taking the photo is echoed every time you see it. Take this photo:
I love this photo. I took it in Norway, not too far from Odda. It wasn’t deliberate at all. My intention was a day hiking to Trolltunga, but when I arrived at the start of the signposted route, and was met with busloads of tourists and a car park packed full of people with much the same intention as me, I decided that perhaps it wasn’t going to be the idyllic, desolate walk I’d anticipated and my attention turned elsewhere. If I hadn’t met that thought, I would never have taken this shot and regardless of its eventual use or its technical constitution, it remains one of my favourite photos. The photo is underlined, twice, with mindfulness. It’s making the best of the bad situation—finding beauty elsewhere, focussing my attention, and aligning my mindset.
Doing this, and maintaining positivity in photography, is so, so important. Photography is pretty unique as it stands in a gray area, somewhere between occupation and hobby. As we all know, monotony and tedium will push through to varying extents in any job we do. If photography is our job, we need to be aware of this, and take control of this negativity and maintain our ‘happy place’ in our mind when practicing. If it starts to become tedious, or the fire and passion that made photography so attractive to us start to dwindle, then an assertive drive to rekindle it must begin. See something new, find some beautiful light, do something fresh, and reflect on exactly why you take photos. For me, it’s about sharing what I see in the way I see it. That’s why, if you take a look on my social media channels, you’ll see the phrase, ‘Let me show you what I see’.
Try this: The next time you chance upon something and your reaction is to raise a camera and capture it, try to bring yourself into that moment. Immerse in what it is that made you do that and just be present. Everybody loses track of things once in a while, feels like throwing down their camera and forgetting it all, and that’s fine. Just don’t make it permanent. If you picked up a camera in the first place, there’s a creativity flowing through you which expresses who you are and what you see, and it takes hold of your soul and makes you who you are. Bring yourself back into the moment and remind yourself why you’re doing it all.
Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings,
thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.