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.