Tuesday, September 18, 2012
From Eye Candy To Soul Food
A project that connects photography and what’s right with the world
It was 25 years ago, when Steve Werner first asked me to write the Basic Jones column for Outdoor Photographer. I resisted. "I'm not a techie photographer, Steve," I said. "I'll run out of tips and tricks after the first six columns!" "Then just write whatever interests you," he responded.
Thus began a journey that changed me both as a photographer and as a person. I did write about what interested me—the nature of beauty, the spiritual aspects of photography, gratitude, joy, love. I wrote about focusing yourself before you focus the camera, about how the experience was always more important than the photograph, about God giving me photography so I could pray with my eyes. Not your normal column on ƒ-stops and shutter speeds.
I had no idea how any of this would be received. At some level, I guess, I didn't care. Once I started, it just came pouring out of me as if it had just been waiting for someone to turn on the spigot.
Luckily, enough of you did enjoy it that Steve kept me around and I kept writing. The more I did, the more my attitude toward photography began to change. When I started as a photographer, getting the image wasn't everything, it was the only thing. Whatever it took. The more my columns began to uncover my real feelings for photography, the more I saw that the image was really just the residue (beautiful residue, but residue nonetheless) of a deep connection with whatever I was photographing. The goal of my photography was getting a good image; the purpose of my photography was connection.
Seeing this, I really started working on the "connection" part of my photography. Spending as much time in contemplation as I did with camera operation. Focusing myself, then the camera. Watching light, color, line and form without immediately trying to capture it. I wanted both from my photographic outings: the goal and the purpose; the image and the connection.
I also began to see my images more and more as celebrations. Not a record, not a capture, not even an art form, but a visual exaltation of the things I see that give me joy.
Many of you have read about my love affair with the iPhone and my commitment to post an iPhone photo each day on my Facebook pages. I've found this an immensely rewarding experience, both to use the iPhone to record my little visual celebrations, the art in my daily life, and the discipline of writing a few words every day about why a given image brings me joy. Both have continued to enhance the connection I have with my subject matter in an even more concentrated way than have my columns.
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