The Art of Mindfulness & Photography

After studying an 8 week course on mindfulness I wanted to find a way to incorporate this into my photography and share with you. I've been a Professional Photographer for approx 20 years and love what I do. However,  it is my work,  so I wanted to find the enjoyment of a hobby again -  simply photographing not for anyone elses eyes/ or for any brief  but my own. I simply found that although I,  like many people, are so busy with working and  keeping home life running along  that  for the most part that we're  not appreciating the moment. This is  why I wanted to find something that would make me STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN for me even for just a shortwhile wherever it fits in. I also have a dog now-  BELLA. I succummed after countless years of the kids asking for one and promising to walk her!!! Never believe them pesky kids! Its not that I dont love dogs it's the hair and the walking in the rain y'see and fitting in the walks - But she's a blessing and  now I'm grateful to her as she made me get out and about and discover new locations and nature - although I'm not a saint - I still hate the hair and the walking in the rain..

As Mindfulness is a simple and yet profoundly effective way of retraining your mind (scientifically proven to  help with any negative sides of  mental health)  that encourages the practictioner, so you wont give yourself a hard time in the proces if your mind doesn't do what you want it to. Mindfulness is  a way of teaching your mind to  'pay attention on purpose'  - it's  all about 'focus' - on the present,  so it makes sense to use a camera as a tool to become more interactive with your surroundings.

I would often find prior to picking up my camera for work or otherwise, that I could be in a different mood once I started concentrating and photographing what is in front of me - However, I find that although mindfulness naturally comes for me behind the camera - it doesn't as a rule and that's what I wanted - I wanted to take it to a different level and go out of my comfort zone - ie studying different locations and nature in a different way and not putting the camera straight up to my eye but looking, feeling, smelling, hearing,  feeling the location and looking for different angles etc.  I can indeed  photograph as many frames as I wish to using digital and spend hours trawling through images but I didn't want to do that - I decided to use my old film camera (to start with) just so I'd be restricted with film and have to think longer and harder  about what was worthy taking a photo of . I've also stayed indoors and photographed the banal - the things I see everyday but also things that wont be there in years to come - the childrens wellies at the back door, the toys, the dog, the kids -  randomly ( incorporating home decoration that will probably be papered over again or painted again in time) - photographing for fun.

Simply taking photographs shines a light onto a scene that you may or may not  have seen in that way before. This is what photography is all about it brings the world into your home into your memories and keepsakes - it is in it's altruistic terms : 'drawing with light' and bringing  your journey home with you so you can recall it again and again. We often see the world from only one perspective – photography gives us a chance to expand our awareness and look at something from 360 degrees. We get a full view of whatever is there if we want to see it fully.

As much as photography is an artistic journey, it can also create a profound shift in your life. It gets you out of your auto-pilot or cynical mind  to become a witness of what is. - to become childlike again - seeing things for the first time - it may shift an otherwise bleak day into something magical. 

I love, love, love looking at photos after the event and (looking through old albums and recalling memories) and in essense, that is I suppose, the opposite to mindfulness as it takes you back to the past and how you felt at that moment but there is no getting away from that for me as photography and photos are a huge part of my  life - so the positive side is putting all that FOCUS  into the moment you take the photo and the appreciation of the moments leading up to and after it and ideally every photo you then look back at has a positive feeling or energy about it.

Why don’t you give it a try?

With the camera in your hand, I would even say if you havent got a camera - use your phone camera -  find a subject of your choosing. Pause. Become aware of your environment: embark on your jouney with a curious mind  - look at the way the light hits the object, a particular person, the way the wind moves the trees or plants. Observe what happens around you - look for shadows, shapes with sincerity.

Zoom closer in with your eyes. Notice how the more time you spend tuning in, the sharper your awareness. You will see more and more detail. 

You may find that there is a specific rhythm to things. You may sense that things will slow down around you. 

Once you experience that state, pick up your camera. Now press the shutter. Play with the angles and the exposure to paint your unique light onto the canvas.

To create a permanent shift in awareness, keep your camera with you at your side at all times. Consider giving yourself an assignment! 

Here are a few for inspiration. Take 21 days to become immersed in one topic before you move on to the next one.

• The Beauty of Life: Take three photographs every day of something you are grateful for.

• Fresh Air  & The Spring Awakening: Capture Spring in landscape, flowers, food, people. How great it is to get out and about in the spring time and notice all the buds, trees, birds awaken.

• Awareness Walk: Take 15-20 minutes every day and go on a walk with no particular purpose other than to observe your surroundings. Look at the houses, the people, the way the light falls onto the streets. Click what captures your interest.

• Capture Reflections: Watch for reflections in puddles, windows, mirrors, sunglasses.

• Light and Objects: Photograph a simple object such as  letterbox, children playing, trees (anything that feels right and not pressurised) during different times of the day to see how the light plays on the object. 

At the end of the assignment, print the photos of your liking. Put them in a scrapbook or pin them on a photo wall. 




and I'm sure you'll be glad you did.