I've fallen in madly love with photography again. Photography and I have had a sweet and tender history together that started during my junior year of high school. It was the summer before junior year that I discovered the thick, dusty albums filled with neatly arranged photographs that my parents had taken in the early 60's during their courtship and travels. Little square snapshots, anchored onto the album page by small black corner pockets, each one looking like a tiny piece of art. Warm, saturated colors, thick photography paper… I was hooked! Once I graduated from high school, however, and entered into the world of college and work, photography and I sadly lost touch.
We rekindled our connection on the campus of USC 11 or so years ago, during a photography course, and were inseparable for a long time, but alas, photography is NOT a cheap date. Due to the amount of expensive equipment photography required, and how much it cost to buy and process film, we quietly went our separate ways again and haven't seen each other for a long time. Over the years I've thought about photography and wondered how it was doing. I guess you could say I was wistful about the lack of photography in my life.
We unexpectedly bumped into each other again recently and discovered that we are now both in very different places than we were when we last saw each other. It seems that photography has matured and has changed a lot (it's now wonderfully digital!). It has become SO accessible, straightforward and much less complicated. I too have changed a lot. I've also become more accessible, straightforward and much less complicated. The time certainly seems right for us to reconnect and stay together. It appears that photography has a lot to teach me and I am ready to learn.
The first lesson photography teaches us is how to focus. Our practice, like taking pictures helps us to see
ourselves and the world rather than just look at them. Our focus defines our life. Our perception is determined by what we choose to focus on. We can use our ability to focus our attention in a way that causes an empowering shift in our perception… or not. It doesn’t matter whether we are looking at a person, situation, or an experience. We can control what our picture looks like by controlling what we choose to focus on. On the mat and in life, if you focus intently on the positive aspects of any person, place, or thing, the negative aspects will fade into the background. They will still exist, but they will be outside of your field of concentration, and will have little or no influence on the picture you see.
Photography also teaches us that the light we shine on our subject determines how we see it. In photographic terms this is called "value", in terms of our practice this is called "self-observation". If we deem a subject to be very important, we shine a spotlight on it so we can see its every detail. If something has less importance, we don't shine as much light on it so that it doesn't distract us from what we're gravitating towards. On our yoga mats we do this breath by breath, taking snapshots of how we are in each posture, each breath, in each moment.
When we practice assigning more value and positive energy to the things in our lives that we have gratitude for, we bring those things into sharp focus. They become higher on our list of priorities and attract more of our attention. As a result, the negative details of life will slowly hold less weight.
In photography, as in life or our practice, we need to make choices about what we are willing to expose ourselves to and for how long. Our time is so precious. Being aware of how we use the time we have available to us is an important practice. Perhaps THE most important!
If we spend too much time focusing on unimportant activities (overexposing yourself), we end up underexposing ourselves to the really important ones. And sometimes, let's face it, we also need to acknowledge that some things are not worth exposing ourselves to at all.
When we learn to look through the lens of our soul we begin to see with greater focus, clarity and compassion. We start to distill life and its moments down to the essence of what is important to nourish our spiritual growth and how we can see the world from this new expanded field of awareness.
As you move through the world today, what will your focus be?
Until next time...
"A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed." -Ansel Adams