Posts Tagged ‘grateful

29
Jul
10

Please remove your shoes (I’m not talking about airline travel)

“Earth is crammed with heaven, Every common bush afire with God:

But only he who sees takes off his shoes.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

After three months of near constant travel and work I am back in Seattle for a week to catch my breath. I have a lot of work to complete and great events on the horizon, but I am going to stop for a bit and reflect on the heaven and bushes afire that I have seen during my latest travels.

The heaven brought forth was the meeting of dear friends in several spots in Europe.  I am so fortunate to have met and come to care deeply for people in many different places. Traveling to see them along familiar rail lines or unfamiliar highways through ripening summer fields was a source of great joy to me. Creating new memories while laughing, dining, or walking together will keep  us in an embrace until our next meeting or even if we are never to meet again. This, along with a few photographs, is my sustenance. The heart holds joy and after a while, will release suffering.

I often visit museums to see the same paintings time and time again. Viewing The Sower and the Place du Forum and one of Vincent’s self portraits with those piercing blue eyes felt just like greeting old friends, or perhaps the echo of those meetings…with a touch of wistfulness and the longing to talk again.

Van Gogh's self portrait from 1887

I had the great pleasure to see several really fine exhibits and one new (to me) museum.  In London I went to the brand new show at the Royal Academy titled Sargent and the Sea, and saw the Renaissance Drawings exhibit at the British Museum. Sargent and the Sea was a particular joy as it showed the artist in the beginning of his career, with paintings that exhibited vigor and freedom, what one might expect from a young man visiting seaside resorts around Europe. What was entirely unexpected was the quality and maturity of the work.  While we might be familiar with the glory of Sargent portraiture, the mastery of his early compositions is stunning.  The texture of and reflections in the wet sand that he created made me want to take off my shoes and wade into the painting. The side-light creating a corona around a child’s head made you feel the late afternoon sun, a feeling that you are caught between wanting to stay on the shore to take in the last rays of sun and warmth while beginning to think about dinner and rest.

Setting out to Fish, 1878, Corcoran Gallery of Art

The Renaissance Drawings exhibit at the British Museum was familiar territory for me as I have spent many hours in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. But there were delights: The painting of two cheetahs from about 1410 was a real surprise and it was eye opening to see the freedom of expression in the preparatory drawings that was rarely seen in a finished work. But to see the evolution of drawing from the early 1400’s to the height of the Renaissance was revelatory. The progressive refinement and use of perspective, texture, detail, and expression of movement and emotion all culminated in the masterpieces by Da Vinci, Titian, and Michelangelo that we revere.

Drawing/painting on vellum, c. 1410, Workshop of Giovannino de'Grassi

Where is the photography in all this? It’s in our awareness of every sight, every step, every line, every shadow, every bush afire. While looking at a canvas by Seurat at the Kroller-Muller museum I was thrilled to see three distinct compositions in one painting. While talking with my mother about the Sargent works I could see clearly the use of negative space, separation of elements, and side-light to highlight portions of the composition. This charged me, energetically, to go out and SEE more deeply. The inspiration I derive from the Masters of Painting and Sculpture feeds me and helps me to refine my ability to create whole engaging images. Having that experience while preparing for a camera club lecture provided great examples and re-ignited my passion for describing how we can expand our awareness by feeding our brains and our souls with the best imagery available to us.

The gift of awareness is the greatest gift we can offer ourselves.  Cultivate it.  Take off your shoes and touch the warmth of the soil and surf. You will reap an earth crammed with Heaven.

31
Dec
09

Tenderness

Perhaps it’s the time of year and the time for looking back that has placed the word tenderness in my heart and on my mind.   Holidays, combined with thoughts of re-birth with the coming new year keep thoughts of family and friends present. 

I’ve been reviewing the year in pictures, both my own and the various collections spread all over the internet.  One of the best compilations of images comes from The New York Times  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/world/2009-decade.html#/intro. The ones that have stayed with me are the tender photographs.   The subject matter, in the case of The New York Times photographs, is often fierce, but the approach has been gentle and the respect for the dignity of the subject apparent.  These are the photos that I want to make in the coming year.  I have several personal projects under way that will demand attention to this objective: A story of the Navajo families in Canyon de Chelly and the life of the farm workers and inhabitants of several Lusitano fazendas in Brazil.  These will be challenging for me as I am unused to photographing people.  I’m looking forward to the deeper connection that this will bring to my life and my relationships with family, friends, and community. 

I wish you a very Happy New Year, with the blessings of good health and connection to loved ones.  And for photographers and non-photographers…..in the words of Irving King and Harry Woods by way of Otis Redding, try a little tenderness.

25
Nov
09

A Thanksgiving post

I’ve spoken of gratitude in previous posts and yet today it seems appropriate to give thanks to my teachers and to teachers everywhere.  I’ll take this idea a little further and give thanks to my students as well.  For they are the reason that teaching is a joy. 

The teachers I have had in my photographic life come from many different backgrounds.  The one characteristic that sets the great ones apart from the good ones is their ability to set aside their personal vision and engage in a genuine manner the student’s interests and body of work.  Simply, there is no ego in great teaching.   When we are connected to another person in this selfless way then we allow magic to happen; perhaps a clearer vision emerges for the student, or the courage to show work publicly, or to tackle a completely new technique or project.   It is likely that the teacher will not know the result of their effort or the lasting effect a conversation or workshop might  have.  But once in a while a little magic happens and we hear from a former student or see a book published or exhibit hung that allows you to think “Yes! I had a little part in that.”  And as this is so inspiring, the circle is complete.  

I had this bit of magic delivered to me last week in the form of an email from a student.  And the week before I enjoyed a break from my routine and had lunch with a former student.  In both instances I was deeply moved…and humbled…by their gracious remarks and their appropriate pride in the work they have been creating since our times together. 

Teach, tutor, or mentor….whatever you have time for!  You will see more deeply and appreciate the amazing ability of your students to see things in a way that you could never dream.  It’s just another way to say that whatever we give comes back to us in far greater measure.   Take a moment to email or write to a teacher whose efforts made a lasting impression.  The joy you will create is immeasurable.

My small gallery today comes from a time when I was challenged, intimidated, yet determined after remarks from my dearest teacher set me on a collision course with my photographic inadequacies. And so, to use a word I learned from my fellow Pilgrims on the path to Santiago de Compostela: Ultreia! (Onward, with courage!)….and I would add, gratitude.

 

29
Oct
09

horses, photography, continued

PiaffeThe practice of expanding my awareness, as encouraged by my interaction with my horses, and developed as my friendship with Dominique strengthened, prepared me to see deeply when I began to photograph in a serious manner.  Had I not spent more than a decade engaged in thought, writing, discussion, and living in a manner that facilitated deeper expression, I believe that I could not have become the photographer I am today. Often people ask me what I photograph.  I don’t know how to answer that really, but have settled on this:  I am an opportunistic photographer.  That is, when I see something that has layers of meaning or that I respond to (emotionally, visually, or otherwise) I investigate it photographically.  Of course I enjoy putting myself in places that I love, marvelous locations like Italy or France, but also the Arboretum, my home town, Dominique and Debra’s barn.  In new or exotic locations my heart is open and I’m visually alive, charged to all that is happening.  In familiar locations I am more relaxed and the images have a way of rising up in a gentle manner.

I have lived with, loved, and cared for horses for a very long time.  The horse is a creature of Grace.  There is an old saying about horses and riders that is roughly “you always get the horse you need”.  Because I like to do things full blast, I have had two horses of distinct personalities.  My mare, Raschida, was my do-everything girl:  fox hunter, trail hack, dressage mount, and teacher for neighborhood children. She insisted that I do everything correctly.  If I did not, it was a battle, and one I would never win.  So she was a marvelous teacher in that way, though not the easiest mount.  She was a gorgeous mare who embodied the Look of Eagles.  My job was to take that power and channel it into relaxation and grounded energy. My stallion, Fol Amour, is a refined, elegant monk with the heart of a lion.  He waits patiently for me and when I arrive (metaphysically and emotionally) we create magic. If I’m not quite there we have a pleasant ride and he sort of just packs me around.  My job is to show up, fully, and allow the sparks to fly. Having the two opposite ends of the spectrum demanded that I put in the “time in the saddle”.  Even when I wasn’t riding, I was thinking of calm, centered, flowing strength. This discipline prepared me to develop my photographic ability while accepting the bumps and setbacks as opportunities to learn.  Today, when I am not photographing, I am thinking about photography.  This enables me to see more deeply and remain creatively inspired. 

In the next post I’m going to pull at the threads of Grace and creative inspiration.

26
Oct
09

thinking of gifts today

Many early birthday wishes today (thank you!) have caused me to think about gifts.  This past summer, while enjoying a visit from my mother, we went to the Olympic coastline. I wanted to show my Mom the gorgeous reflections that wet sand can offer at sunset. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a few stops along the way to photograph the lavender fields.  We had traveled 105 of the 109 miles to our destination when we rounded a corner, started down an incline, and ran SMACK into a fog bank. Not a wispy, oh it will blow over fog bank, an impenetrable wall of gray hanging mist.  The temperature dropped like a stone along with our hopes of photographing glorious pinks and magentas and oranges with deep blue sky and water.   We checked into our little ‘roughing-it’ cabin and decided to take a walk on the shore. 

The bracing sea air and the vibration of the surf on the shore worked on my mood and made me remember that there were photographs to be created.   I’ll let the photographic results speak to you as they will, but the most important thing I captured that night was a renewed commitment to remember a lesson I thought I knew:  a grateful heart accepts all as a gift.




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