In this day and age of photography, travel to distant and exciting new destinations and heretofore unimagined landscapes is quite appealing. That said, As much as I embrace Ansel Adam’s famous assertion: “Great photo aren’t taken, they’re made.”, what resonates with me even more is a sentiment expressed by renowned photographer and teacher, Freeman Patterson, who wrote in his legendary book: Photography and The Art of Seeing … “If you can’t see what’s around you everyday, what will you see when you go to Tangiers?” Its not where you go, its what you’re skillfully able to see wherever you happen to go, for the ability to see beauty doesn’t increase with each mile traveled from home.
Becoming a better photographer is all about a developing a heightened state of awareness. As such, the familiar is so important because it is here, in our everyday experience and all that we see around us, that we may expand our conscious awareness through, and with, intent and purpose. Thus, it is with mindful awareness that our perception of that which is familiar, becomes heightened, seen in a new, deeper way, and with it our state of consciousness matures and our life becomes richer and more meaningful, and may be expressed and reflected in our photography or whatever art we may engage in.
As we look out across the landscape and through the lens of our camera, we are continuously out picturing our state consciousness. As we all seek meaning in our personal relationships, so do we look for it in the landscape as “I am one with all I see before me”, for in the truest sense, the landscape is a series of overlapping metaphors if we would be aware enough to both perceive and grasp their significance of their expression. In teaching, the best exercise I could ever suggest was to “take pictures” without a camera as we go about our daily lives. Do we notice the subtle gradations of colors in grassy field we pass on our way to work? Do we see the wonderful patterns and textures in plantings of landscaping in a yard we stroll by while walking our dog?
The familiar is like a two sided coin; on one side is the value of the familiar, and on the other side is what I call, the complacency of the familiar. On the former, value is recognized and appreciated, one the latter, value has become diminished or even lost in the drone and repetition of daily living. That which has value, the blessing of our relationships to those we love and things we have, the miraculous and ever-changing beauty that surrounds us, becomes veiled like a brilliant autumn forest in fog. And, like this color forest shrouded in fog, we too, know the beauty and importance of those people in our lives, are sometimes taken for granted in the mists of our many life’s experiential daily overloads, like our camera’s flashcard that’s almost always full and in danger of taking in no more of taking in precious moments captured. But, alas, in life there are no interchangeable flash cards, for one is all we get. And in our expression of the value of what’s in our life, does it forever contain infinite room for their capture and reliving. This is the true and lasting beauty of our art, for in its creating, its expression reveals the life and experience of a multidimensional being, unfolding like a lotus blossom before the world.
Lastly, although these images below were taken hundreds of miles from my home near the San Juan Islands, they nevertheless reflect a vision and way of seeing that is very much “homegrown”. In traveling to these places, these images all taken from a road or path just off the road, all reminded me of many of the visual elements I find close at hand, out my back door, or on a walk with my dog, Rocky. And yet, they all bring something new to that experience and thus attracted me as they lay before me in plain sight.
For me, while great photographs may be taken in far away places, I think they are ultimately inspired by the mindful awareness of the familiar.
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