Art & Soul Seeing #2
Habit 2: Be Humble
I spent the past month considering the ideas in, and experimenting taking photographs based upon, Kim Manley Ort’s next section in Adventures in Seeing. Surprisingly, reflecting on Habit 2: Be Humble often left me NOT wanting to take photographs. I definitely was pausing to notice simplicity and elements of essence all around, but then I would feel the impulse to release those single moments of notice and not snap a photograph, almost as if to honor the fleeting nature of simple daily experiences. I wondered if maybe, for me, essence is connected to impermanence. Or maybe the strive to see little things (one of Kim's activities) ignited rebelliousness, a resistance to trying to contain brief moments of attention and wonder.
Maybe my knee-jerk reaction was judgmental: I was assuming human arrogance in trying to capture moments in time, especially when our natural world is always moving forward, each moment disappearing before we can fully grasp it.
So, all month, I forced myself to take photographs here and there. I zoomed in on the world’s tiniest ant motoring along the metal strip between tile and wood floors in my home. My iPhone camera (all I had on hand) lens couldn’t take it. It blurred out the ant, and it couldn’t honestly show the scale of things. The real moment poof, gone. Yet, the image was interesting to me for its texture, color, pattern.
While walking my dogs, I stopped to look at a pockmark in a sidewalk, noticed the remarkable life force of sprouting weeds and grasses from a curb crack, and paused to wonder how a lone gambel oak leaf stayed in place on cement, despite morning drainage winds coming down from the nearby mountains.
Perhaps the act of taking photographs is a leap of faith, or a willing submission to the idea that the moment will be gone, what we thought or felt may not be remembered for much longer, especially when we witness the most ordinary and simple, even the essential.
I am realizing through these exercises that photographing with intentionality about seeing a certain way, or based on an idea like humility or simplicity, hones our senses and sends our attention toward what we may otherwise overlook. We only partly record each moment, but we create something different, more than representation. Our photographs become abstraction, pattern, or visual prompts for meditation and reflection. They are birthed in a second as something separate from the initial act of seeing, something entirely new.
Thanks for meeting me here!