I was going through some boxes this past weekend, and I came across my collection of old cameras. Out of curiosity, I googled many of them to find the year that they were made. It turns out that in my collection, I have a camera from each decade starting with the 1940’s on up to today. It made me think about the previous owners and the images that were taken with the cameras, and I wondered about the meaning and history the images held for them.
I began my photography career when I was in the 5th grade, as I took photos of my friends mostly, which seemed typical for the developmental stage I was in at the time. When I was 18, I went off to college and I decided to pursue a career in art therapy. In art school I majored in photography and sculpture. I was always inspired by photographers who were telling their story or documenting others stories through their imagery. After presenting my Bachelor of Fine Art show, I realized the imagery I created for the show was how I processed and understood the information I learned in my psychology course work and how it applied to my life.
I went on to graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in art therapy and relocated to New York City. I used my camera to capture the environment I was living in as a way to help me acculturate to my new surroundings and to ground myself. I learned of photo therapy as a subset of art therapy and I was hooked. I worked with people using photography as a way to tell their personal story in a therapeutic manner. As a sendoff from the graduate program my professor said to me, “Use your camera well in capturing your world”.
Fast forward to today, I took his advice as I have continued to use photography in my life as part of my own creative and therapeutic process. I have photographed moments of birth, death, and everything of life that happens in between. The photos have been able to mirror and hold these precious moments of life. Over the past few years I have been influenced by mindfulness and have learned of the term contemplative photography which gives a name to applying mindfulness in the art of taking pictures.
By applying mindfulness in the way I take pictures, it creates a process of centering, regulation of emotions, and grounding. I am intentional as I create a visual moment in time. I pay attention to my surroundings and focus on an image that creates interest for me, whether it’s the color, shape, linear movement, emotion, or the way the image expresses itself in the moment of creative flow. The flow can create a feeling of calm and centeredness. The process can be used for self-growth and personal reflection or just to create a moment of ease and mindful attention as you enjoy taking a photo of something that catches your eye.
We live in a time where we all have pretty incredible photo capabilities built into our smart phones which people carry around with them most of the time. I encourage you to take a mindful moment to see with your camera lens what can be expressed for you. As I end I will share a few of my own images that were taken with intention and attention to a moment of time and my surroundings.