Archive for August, 2010


Cradled

I love close up and macro photography.  The ability to see the small made large is wonderful.  With this form of photography we can see the intricacies of life and the beauty in all life forms – even insects that would otherwise revolt us.   With beautiful plants we can see their connections to us, physically or with a little interpretation, emotionally.

For me this plant is cradling the flower to be.  An Australian native, with intense hues and lovely dramatic shapes, this plant seems to me to be surrounding the burgeoning flower with support. The colours of the supports attract bees and butterflies, helping the flower to start its role in life.

We, too, probably have similar supports in our lives.  Sometimes we want these supports, they are necessary for our physical well-being and growth.  As we grow older we want to reject some of the support, particularly if it is parental, and replace it with other forms of support – friends and lovers.  Later still we may move through a period where we see ourselves as strong and capable of living our lives without support – and certainly without the constraining forms we may have had before.

Our strength grows as we depend on ourselves, as we realise we are responsible for our decisions and must accept the consequences of them, good or bad.  But there are many times when having support waiting in the wings is very important for us.  Just knowing that there will be someone there to talk to, to help bring us to the place we need to be next in our lives enables us to remain strong.

I feel I have so much luck and joy in my life, because I have love and caring from family and  deep and abiding friendships.  These provide me with support and reassurance that whatever directions I need to grow in, that I will always have someone there.  I am supported in my search for the things deep inside me, for the parts of my life that are yet to develop.

My family and friends are not only the macro lens but also the wide-angles in my life.  They show me the importance of small things and the challenge of the wider view.  They don’t let me drown in the tiny details, but pull me back to see the whole.

There is beauty in support.

Seeing what we see

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.

Jonathan Swift

What do we see as we move through this world?  Each of us will see the same molecules and atoms but we will ‘see’ them differently.  Above is merely a piece of  root from an Australian eucalyptus tree.  The tree has been logged, dragged from the ground, the valuable parts harvested, and this root remnant left sitting in a paddock.  Just a bit of dead wood.

And yet for me, its form was suggestive of an animal feeding, its colouring and shape reminded me of visits to the museum to see dinosaur mockups .  I ‘saw’ it, not with factual eyes, but with eyes attuned to forms and shadows, shapes and light.

As photographers we see the world and interpret it through our visions and ways of seeing.  As people we do the same.  We look at the world and the people in it from our own perspectives, and interpret from our own internal visions.  These visions are wholly personal, and rarely factual.

I can present my vision to others, show them why I ‘see’ this object/person/concept this or that way.  But I cannot expect my interpretation to be accepted as truth.  And in turn, others cannot expect me to accept their vision and interpretation as ‘truth’.  We can only present, not demand; share, not impose.

There is nothing true anywhere, The true is nowhere to be seen; If you say you see the true, This seeing is not the true one.

Abraham Lincoln

Connections

Music and the Monk

I’ve been reading two of Galen Rowell’s books recently.  Both talk about what makes a photograph powerful, because what the eye sees is NOT what the camera records, either in content or colour.  And – with apologies to Mr Rowell – the simple answer is a powerful image connects to a vision within the photographer and the viewer.

I take many photographs as often as possible.  Is it possible to have this much vision, covering such a wide range of things to focus on?  I look over my photographs and they cover a broad range of subjects.  Landscapes and people, macros of flowers and rust, natural and man-made.  Sky and pollution.

Is there a connecting vision that makes my photography a ‘whole’ in some way?  Does there need to be?  I believe that Galen Rowell would answer  ‘Yes’  –  that if I want my images to touch someone, then yes – there has to be a vision that I am pre-visualising, seeing in the view-finder and then taking.

So in looking through my images, I began to ask what it was that I wanted my photographs to express, what I wanted others to see when they looked at one of my images.  How can I relate my street photos of a sea of umbrellas with rusting car bodies, birds with beggars, flowers with bridges?

Finally I realised that my internal vision was the connection.  And that vision is my belief that everything in the universe is connected, that everything shares the same atoms and molecules, whether man-made or natural, whether developing or decaying. Finding ourselves within everything else is important to me, seeing the connections between monks in remote monasteries and office-slaves in cities; the inner heart of flowers and rusting nails. These all say to me in one way or another that everything holds the essence of everything else within it.  I hold the seeds of beauty and decay, of construction and destruction and particularly, that I have connections with each person on earth, I am within them and they within me.

As I see through the view-finder I am in that contemplative, meditative process that connects me – miksang.

if I can express this connection between ourselves and everything else, then I feel that I have created a powerful image.

This is the vision I look for as I raise my camera.

Inner and Outer

I took this image in the school grounds of a local High school in Brisbane. The grounds are lovely for the students – native bushland, with birds all round.

The contrasts of colours, the light dappled through the leaves pulled my eye and for some reason my emotions.

I kept coming back to it because it made me happy, and it took me quite a while to figure out why.  On the surface, this looks like a ‘wounded’ tree.   A limb  been violently torn from the branch in a storm.   I could have been mourning the loss of its perfection and beauty, but I wasn’t.

What I finally realised was that this eucalyptus was offering me both its inner and outer beauty.  The deep red heart and the smooth grey-white bark.  The storm had given me a rare look into the centre of a live tree.  That section of branch may look wounded, but  birds will nest in it, spiders will spin webs and hide from predators.

The resilience of the eucalyptus has meant that the remaining connection has been enough to allow it to continue to live, and the torn wood is gradually growing a protective bark. The heart will remain open for many years, providing safety for some.

For me, the beauty of the open heart is a reminder that we do not need to hide our heart, our core away.  We don’t need to wrap it in thick impenetrable bark.  We can have an open heart to inspire others, to show our beauty. What needs to be protected will be.  The generation of new growth and changed uses encourages me to see that losses can be new directions.

There is much beauty in imperfection, and inspiration in what looks to be destruction.

Ripples

This image was taken from a boat as we travelled up river to visit a nature park.  The ripples with their miniature eddies cried out to be photographed.  The differences in light, texture and lines drawing the eye back to where we had been caught my thoughts as well as my camera.

Ripples in our lives are usually interpreted as problems and effects of things on ourselves and others.  We plan on an even, calm life and see that as good and comfortable.

For photographers, even and calm can only give so much interest in images. They have their place, but to create amazing images we need tension between focal points, changes to record,  drama to be captured.  A crashing sea, stormy clouds or wind-tossed trees make for more exciting images.  Photo-journalists live for the dramatic, the changing situations.  These are the images that inspire people to become environmentalists, protest against wars, poverty, injustice and all of the other difficult situations.

In our own lives we too need the ripples of change to create growth and development.  Without these waves and ripples coming at us, we have no reason to change our attitudes or situations.  The waves of life come at us and we need to ride them or crash through them.  Each change we make as we move forward creates ripples behind us, showing us where we have come from.  No matter how quietly we try to move, either in the air or on water, we create riplles.  No matter how small we think our changes are, we will create ripples.

Any movement,  physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, will create ripples that impact on ourselves and others around us.  To a greater or lesser extent it will create tension  and drama – things to be looked for if we are recording our lives and the world around us.

To not make an impact means being static.  It means no growth, no development, no change.  A calm pond, unbroken by the ripples of fish, frogs or water insects is a dead pond.

Embrace the waves and look back with pleasure at the ripples left behind from our growth.

Discovery

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. ~Anaïs Nin

I’ve spent the last couple of months playing with my baby granddaughter.  Of course, as her Nanna, I think she is totally gorgeous and I’ve had a ball cuddling, singing and playing with her.  Watching her reach vital milestones – smiling, giving big sloppy kisses, laughing, rolling over and having her vaccinations – has been wonderful.

In all of this the wonder in her face as she ‘finds’ and recognises parts of herself is fascinating.  Her hands first, took her attention, and she became adept at finding her mouth with them.  Then she could reach and clasp objects.  She found her feet and loves to catch them, pulling them close to her mouth.

After a little while she could recognise herself in the mirror and smiled at that beautiful ‘other’.  Knowing where she finished and others began developed.  She recognises and looks for ‘her’ people.  Touching and tasting everything is her way of learning about herself and the world.

For me this learning in a baby is repeated as an adult when we begin to look inward, to discover what parts of ourselves have been hidden and undiscovered.  Often we fear this discovery, believing that all of those undiscovered parts in the unconscious are dark and ‘bad’.  We don’t push ourselves to go on this journey of discovery because of the pain we fear will hurt us or our family and friends.

There will be things in our unconscious that make us feel unhappy and bad.  But there will also be many things there that strengthen and nourish us.  We may find intelligence and skills we have hidden, fearing ridicule or bullying. A greater spiritual awareness and connection could be sitting waiting to be released to help us and others on our paths.

Until we take the chance of these discoveries we will never know what we could be, what we could do.

Like my wonderful granddaughter, we need to keep discovering ourselves to learn our capabilities and is ‘me’ and what is ‘other’.