“Of Nature itself upon the soul; the sunrise, the haze of autumn, the winter starlight seem interlocutors; the prevailing sense is that of an exposition in poetry; a high discourse, the voice of the speaker seems to breathe as much from the landscape as from his own breast; it is Nature communing with the seer.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I wish I could have met Emerson. An exceptionally enlightened soul, he, like no one else who has ever written about the relationship between beauty, nature, and the human spirit; the essence of his writings, as eloquent as they are profound, seem to inevitably find their way to that place where my artistic and spiritual sentiments dwell. To the viewer of nature, he elevates the encounter from simple detached observation; he opens our minds and hearts to the far greater possibilities of spiritual and revelatory experience. Like most photographers, I suppose, I began my journey in the art of landscape photography thirty years ago, feeling my way along through the maze of basic photographic techniques and concepts; the right film, the most suitable lenses, lighting, composition, etc. As happens with most endeavors, with time and experience, the basics become second nature, freeing us up to consider and explore the finer and more subtle facets of that endeavor. I have found this process in my photography to be the most liberating and artistically significant aspect of the creative and expressive process in producing a fine art image.
Over the years, I seem to have received a consistent comment from viewers of my work that my images often look like paintings. I was a little uncertain about that perception at first mention, but I began to realize as I further pursued my work, that I do indeed, perceive the landscape as a painter might as he considers his subject. Thus, for me the photographer, the mountain is not a big spectacular, snowcapped formation of massive rock; it is a metaphor of strength, timelessness, shades of light and dark, transitioning hues of color and contrasting textures and lines, hence that experiential artistic perception as the landscape itself as a painting, naturally expresses itself in my final image. This is my personal style and I must say that it has emerged, almost unconsciously over the many years of not only photographing, but in fact seems to express itself as the sum total of all my life experiences. They say that wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age just shows up all by itself. I would like to think however, in some modest way, that these experiences have blessed me with a richness and greater appreciation of my relationship to nature and what importance to our lives it may hold for us. It is only within this essential spiritual context that I can convey how I see the landscape and how I express it.
When a photographer improves their skills to that point of second nature, it is the point at which the issues of developing a personal style seem to emerge. Much has been written and taught on the subject of personal style in photography, and although much of it worth reading and thinking about, when all ideas and concepts are considered, I believe that one must release them all from conscious thought and application, and simply approach the photography of the landscape as a meditation and the practice of complete attentiveness. I, however. simply don’t believe that we “create” our own photographic style; it, in its own time, emerges, almost magically, proclaims itself to us, it is us, it is ultimately our soul and state of consciousness revealed. And that revelation is something that can only emerge from within, not without.
“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them”
The guiding principle in my photography comes from Buddha, who said: “All that we are arises with our thoughts, we are what we think, with our thoughts we make the world.” Jesus said the same thing: “As a man thinketh, so is he”. I suppose to the casual observer, these might seem wonderful and intriguing philosophical musing of two of the world’s most revered spiritual masters. However, to me it is the single most profound truth of our spiritual existence and principle of physical manifestation in reality. Theosophical theories and discussion aside, how does this concept of reality relate to landscape photography? Over the years I have developed my own concept of photographing the landscape: “what you see is what you get, what you get is what you manifest.” I try to live moment-to-moment, living and breathing this concept in every thought and action. I am not nearly wise enough to understand at some deeper level the process by which it actually happens, I just know by experience and results that it is truly real. As quantum physicists like to say, ‘there is no out there… out there”, meaning there is no separate and distinct physical world apart from us out there that we simply exist and operate in; we are not some sort of “ping pong balls” of existence bouncing off the inner walls of some worldly physical construct. Rather, the world that we perceive “out there” is but a projection of our inner self and our collective inner selves. I am not saying that we create the physical landscape, for The Creator does that, only that we are reflecting back the creation to its source through the experience of our being. The greatest conscious realization a photographer any landscape artist can have, is simply that we and the landscape before us are not separate, we are but one. I realize that to many this may seem far-fetched, and quite a sizable shift in the perception of reality. On the other hand, you may yourself have experienced reality in this way. However, for those who wish to explore the possibilities that this perception of reality holds and how it may interact and influence the creative process of landscape photography, I encourage you to be open to and work with this concept in your own photography or any endeavor for that matter.
“Our world is just ourselves pushed out”
Bruce W. Heinemann