The Art of Mindful Seeing
by Jennifer Schlick
It can take as long as twenty minutes to give myself full permission to forget the worries of the world and be mindful as I walk. To be fully present to this moment. To see truly what is in front of my eyes. I may snap pictures before that state of mindfulness settles in, but I know, even as I snap, those pictures will fall victim to the delete key once I see them on the computer. I take a deep breath and let go of worry and stress. I invite my eyes, my mind, and my heart to align and be open to visual flashes of color, light, texture.
When something catches my eye and stops me in my tracks, I rest with that flash of perception in an inquisitive way, without judgment, without struggle. I may walk around the object whose color or texture attracted my attention. I may study the way the light is reflecting off of, or shining through, or just laying softly upon the object.
Eventually, I will raise my camera and attempt to capture an equivalent of the perception I just experienced – nothing more, nothing less.
This photographic practice, described in detail by Andy Karr and Michael Wood in their book The Practice of Contemplative Photography – Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes, will be the focus of a workshop offered at the Nature Center on Saturday, November 15, 2014, 1:00pm-3:00pm. Think of it as a book report in the form of a workshop.
There are many reasons to make photographs and many approaches to the practice of making photographs. This is only one. For me, this approach has been akin to drawing in a sketchbook. I am not trying to create great works of art, I am simply practicing the art of seeing, and of capturing in a real, uncontrived way exactly what I see.
The practice continues when I get the images home and onto my computer. Cameras are computers that are programmed to make decisions on our behalf. Sometimes those programmed decisions distort the image we perceived. A few adjustments are often necessary to make the captured image match our original perception.
I have found that my practice images are often so beautiful I want to print them and hang them in my home or office. I have also found that this practice continues to help me see in fresh ways, even when my purpose is conceptual or journalistic. I find that instead of photographing what I think I ought to, I photograph what is really there. The book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography, is sprinkled with quotes from great photographers. Here’s one from Aaron Siskind that expresses what I’m getting at here: “We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. As photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”
Students should dress for the weather and bring their favorite cameras as we’ll be making photographs outside. Any kind of camera will do. This is not a class about how your camera works. It is about an approach to using your camera that will improve your ability to see the world with fresh eyes. We will review the concept of contemplative practice and try some of the exercises put forth in the book. Finally, a few tips for post processing will be offered to improve your captured images.
The deadline to register is Tuesday, November 11th. The cost is $33 or $25 for Friends of the Nature Center members. For more information, or to register, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org.
The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania.
Jennifer Schlick is the nature center’s program director. Photography has been her passion for many years and she began practicing photography seriously in 2006 when she purchased her first digital SLR camera. Her work has been displayed locally in both group and solo shows.