Monday, October 13, 2014

Baby Boomers

by Carol

The last of the baby boomers turns 50 this year. The trouble with being a baby boomer, is that its very hard to come up with an original idea. If you go to a store and say, "maybe I'll wear a red dress to that presentation," The next Sunday the New York Times declares that "red is the new black," and shows the streets of New York covered in red fashion. You think, "maybe I'll take up photography," and the next week there's a woman on the arthritis medication ad hiking with her camera up to a picturesque lighthouse.

I will let you in on a secret - I sort of thought I invented contemplative photography. (I know - make all the Al Gore references you want. OK stop laughing.)  It was only that what drew me into the serious study of photography was that I saw so many parallels between what I do for a living (audiology) and my photography lessons. I have a masters degree and years of study behind me when I teach a hearing impaired person how to hear a new way through a hearing aid. And I read every article I could about teaching the eye to see as I was learning photography. I read all the brain literature about the differences between processing visual stimuli and processing sound stimuli. Then I got curious about the other senses and was thrilled to find Theresa Sweeney's "Touch Painting." I started to form an idea. Maybe, given time, I could research these topics and put together an approach to "full personal exposure" to the images you are taking.

That's about when a friend signed up for a course with Vision Photographic Workshops at the Jersey shore, (taught by Michael S. Miller ) and came home talking about taking photographs without your camera, motion and creativity, touching the trees to feel their texture before photographing them....I'm sure I'm mis-stating or over-simplifying some of this - I haven't taken the Visions workshop yet myself - but it sure sounded as if they were encouraging the use of all your senses to make a better photograph. I began searching the internet for information and very quickly realized that there is an entire world out there called "Contemplative Photography" and it goes waaayyy beyond my simple idea of using your senses to the fullest. It incorporates meditation, sketching, writing, even sometimes yoga.

Sigh -OK- so maybe I'm not so original! But I am thrilled anyway to find publications like "Stone Voices," fields of study like Ecopsychology, and websites like The Photographic Sage, The Miksang Institute and too many more to list here. It's a perfect next step for me, combining many of my interests, and taking my approach to the next level. It also expands my personal photographic experience of using photography as therapy for this fast-paced world; helping me to slow down, to choose more intentionally, to stop worrying about the future and live in the present.

So I will continue to practice Contemplative Photography. I will continue to research training the senses. Whether its a new idea or not, it is new to me! It makes no matter whether I contribute to the field or just practice it. It has captured my interest, improved my images and expanded my experience. So maybe you will see me someday in the pages of a medical or a photographic journal; maybe you will just see me standing out in a field or forest somewhere with my camera; or maybe you will see me in the next arthritis ad.  Rest assured - I will be out there somewhere doing what I love!

Is there a phase of photography, or of life, that captures your interest? Share it with the rest of us boomers - there is bound to be someone else who's interested in it too.

"Its not enough to be holding your camera. Its not even enough to know how to use it.What's most important - in this, as in any creative endeavor - is our ability to be present, attentive: to notice, to listen, to see."
                                                                                                              Diane Walker


Dotti said...

This is such a great perspective, Al ... er, Carol. Contemplative Photography is new to me, something I've just come across within the last year but I must tell you, I need a lot of practice. A LOT! Your uptop photo drew me right in. I've been following Photographic Sage and she does have some really great thoughts.

Mary Rawl said...

I stumbled across Kim Manley Ort, contemplative photographer and teacher last year and have taken all her photography courses. I have learned to see, focus and connect because of the many resources she provided along with interactive online classes. She also introduced students to the contemplatives photographers, Patricia Turner and Diane Walker, along with others. Contemplative photography has opened up a whole new world for me, seeing and being! Your article was so much like my own journey!

kimmanleyort said...

There is nothing new under the sun. I think someone famous said that once. Yet, you come into this world bringing your special take on the subject, especially with your audiology training. I can't wait to see where you go with it.

gina said...

Your story resonated with me too...I'm an older baby boomer ( with arthritis!) and have met so many retired folks who have taken up photography -- quite a few of them are also drawn to the contemplative approach. Maybe it's our stage of life, when we can slow down a bit and see things differently. For me, it's been a gift.

Deanna said...

Your words really have me I seeing what I need to see, am I feeling, am I appreciating all that the eye, the mind, and the touch can give? You have me thinking!!!

Barb said...

What a great post - I'm learning from it and from all the commenters. Each of us interprets a scene differently - and the scenes themselves change instant by instant. I started taking photos for fun 10 years ago at the age of 60, and I'm still having a good time.

Anonymous said...

Like you, Mary and others, I have found myself more and more drawn to photography as a contemplative practice. I have learned so much from Kim Manley Ort's classes and from reading books and blogs by practitioners. For me, it's a way to "be" with photography. Because contemplative is a way to be in this world. I can't say I am there 100% of the time, but more there than I used to be, for sure. And even though indeed there are many of us following this path, each of us brings something quite different to it, as Kim says above. Thank you for the thoughtful post and beautiful images.

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