Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Have you used up your future?

A few years ago, as I was heading into a period of sabbatical, soul searching and reinvention, I found myself feeling very lost and a little unhinged…..and yet a little excited at the same time.  I realized I had left behind so much that had identified and grounded me to that point—my career, home, friends, lifestyle—in order to create some space to explore new directions.  The words ‘lose yourself to find yourself’ resonated daily in my head. The ‘losing yourself’ part isn’t easy; much of it involves dis-identifying with so much comfort and ease….why would we choose that? In need of some guidance I reached out to an advisor of sorts–a spiritual ‘coach’ more or less. As I was grumbling about my career winding down, my empty nest, my dissatisfaction with just about everything in my life at that point—framing it all as some sort of failure on my part, he laughed. He said “Elizabeth, you haven’t failed at anything. That’s the problem… succeeded at all of it. You simply used up your future.”

Wow. That simple shift in perspective, that I had fulfilled my vision for my life up until that point and I simply needed a new script to follow…felt so empowering and relieving somehow. By choosing to operate from a place of abundance rather than lack changed my inner dialogue. It’s simply the ebb and flow of life. To choose to bloom again is not always the easiest choice….but it’s far richer and enlivening than staying tight within the bud.

Tip #2 Keep an Idea Journal

Keep a notebook/journal for each area of your life. Write down ideas, facts, questions, random thoughts—any information you stumble across throughout the day. There are many planners out there but it’s much more useful, fun and creative to make your own, organizing the information in a way that works best for you. I refer to mine as my ‘meaning maker’ or ‘idea bank. The more problems, thoughts and ideas that you record and review from time to time, the more complex becomes the network of information in your mind. Also keep a box of interesting advertisements, quotes, pictures, news clippings, doodles, words, swatches–anything you are drawn to that might trigger ideas by association. Chances are you’re drawn to an item for a reason; you just don’t know as yet how to apply it. By periodically reviewing the notebook you activate all the recorded information in your conscious AND subconscious mind, as a way of stimulating ‘mind-popping’. also, the practice of writing a thought or idea down embeds it in your long-term memory. Einstein was said to have 3500 notebooks which he referred to over and over again throughout his lifetime. Walt Whitman kept little pieces of paper with notes separated into envelopes by category. Charles Dickens would scan graveyards for the names of his characters (think Martin Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep) all written in notebooks, and Thoreau kept detailed nature journals…both of which, and more, I had the privilege of photographing in the collection of the NY Public Library several years back.

My notebook of choice is a gridded paper, soft cover 5×7 Moleskine. I have tons of them going back years…I am never without one.

Synergistic Enterprises

As our workspace is being redefined these days it’s very common for many of us to have more than one title—a network of enterprises. More and more we’re having to stretch and expand ourselves to cover more territory professionally; those of us in mid-life who are re-inventing as well as millenials who are cycling through several jobs early on. I see this as a gift–an opportunity to play in a much bigger sandbox. When people ask me what I do, simply responding ‘I’m a photographer’ doesn’t begin to cover it, especially because it doesn’t speak to the distance I’ve traveled and experience I’ve gained since first calling myself that in my twenties. The fact is I have two seemingly completely separate businesses now—photographer/visual asset developer/creative director on the one hand and blogger, coach/consultant/change agent on the other. And yet they feed into and off of one another more seamlessly with each passing day. I’ve stopped trying to make it an either/or proposition. Each path benefits from the nourishing perspective of the other, and both represent my passions, skill sets and life experience. This new paradigm we’re living in, though not without its challenges, does allow for a more holistic approach to our professional lives—no longer either or, rather— both and all. I don’t think I could have gotten away with it ten years ago.

Although a little overwhelming and uncertain at times—with flexibility replacing security and a paycheck—this new model in the workplace is also a gift, an opportunity to grow and engage with people and ideas in multiple ways. It makes room for a fuller expression of our life experience, our creativity—our humanity.

Fresh Eyes

Marcel Proust wrote: “The true journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having fresh eyes.”

It’s a bit like rebooting your computer. What moving to a new place and/or traveling do offer is a different perspective, a shift in our thinking—new possibilities, happiness! Until….we become again habituated to our daily routines and surroundings, losing that refreshed feeling.  What was once new and exciting inevitably fades. This is why some people are addicted to change…and most of us love to travel. Neuroscience supports this. So how can we have ‘fresh eyes’ without a move or travel?

Most of us walk through our days not even paying attention to our surroundings. We are slaves to the chatter in our heads.We can make a conscious decision to see the beauty we miss, daily—faces, geometry, architecture, colors, clothing, kitsch, nature…it’s simply a choice to pay attention, differently. Have you ever thought of how many shades of green there are, or yellow, or white? Pick one color and use your iphone to record as many variations you see over the course of a couple days. See how this wakes you up and enriches the quality of your day…..or choose any visual theme that speaks to you. Try using  your iphone to tune in rather than tune out.


Just Because…

Saccowatt Valentine….a week late.

The Wisdom of Subtraction

I don’t know about many of you, but lately I feel like a slave to my to-do list… I’m getting nowhere even though I’m doing so much….. particularly this past year because I’ve been trying to do way too many ‘big’ things at once.  I came across an article the other day, The Art of Adding by Taking Away written by Matthew May. It speaks to the value of looking at what not to do, of having the discipline to discard what does not fit or serve our purpose.  “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day”   from the 2500 year old teachings of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Wow.

I’ve often applied this ‘less is more’ concept in my photography, embracing the Zen aesthetics of  minimalism and empty space in the visual sense. In conversation as well there is richness in silence—it is in the ‘gaps’ where insights occur. How might you apply these principles in your own life?

Busyness does not equal productivity or growth. It often gets in the way in fact, creating the illusion that we’re getting things done. How about creating a not-to-do list to accompany your to-do list? Try it. Think about what you really want to be accomplishing and conserve your resources. It’s about removing just the right things in the right way; this shift in perspective will allow the universe to step in…I call it Grace. Good things are bound to follow.


Seeing Clearly

Vipassana–a Pali word meaning ‘to see clearly’…. Seeing speaks to understanding, illumination, discernment, and wisdom—seeing past stereotypes, cliches and preconceptions. Do you see?  To ’see’ is to look past the obvious, the expected; to take the time, to pay attention. Seeing is more of a right brained (non-verbal, intuitive) activity. Betty Edwards developed a hugely successful approach to teaching ANYONE how to draw based on the premise of drawing what you actually see rather what you think you see. Her book Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain has sold millions of copies worldwide since its’ publication in 1979. I took the class from her son, Brian Bomeisler, who teaches her approach out of his Soho Loft, and I can attest to its merits. Another benefit of ’seeing’ rather than merely looking is an enhanced quality of existence. Our ability to experience our surroundings, no matter how seemingly mundane, keeps us in the present moment.  It takes us out of our turbulent minds. Seeing can be a form of meditation. This has always been a gift photography has given me—the gift of awareness.

To better deal with change we need to see clearly as each moment unfolds, to allow things to be as they are and adjust, to find the joy, to be creative in connecting the dots, seeing patterns, recognizing opportunities. With so much uncertainty and paradigm shift we need new ways of seeing and new ways of thinking. We literally need to change our  minds. To do this it helps to understand how our minds work so we can control what’s in our heads, so we can calm ourselves down, so we can live from what’s really happening, not our judgement-infused perceptions and habitual mindsets. So how do we remain connected to the moment? How do we stop the chatter—internal and external—from taking over? We need to get better at paying attention. Seeing clearly–without the labeling/dismissing. Seeing with fresh eyes. Shifting perception. It’s a muscle we can build.

Are You a (Serious) Collector?

Photography is a form of collecting. Photographs are souvenirs. We take pictures to collect memories, experiences, capture a moment in time, or fix an ephemeral moment of beauty. Some of us are creating our ‘museum of happiest moments’ whereas others are working at reinterpreting the world around them, using a camera as a way to get at some deeper truth….collecting insights, informed by our unique and particular sensibility as photographers….and people.

At the end of the day, no matter where we fit in to the above, our collections can represent our journey, or at least the parts we want to hold on to.


The Texture of Memory

I love NPR radio. There was recently an interview with Joshua Foer talking about his fantastic new book Moonwalking With Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything. The ‘art’ he refers to is based on a set of techniques invented in ancient Greece. The ‘art’ is in creating imagery in your mind that is so dense, so colorful, so unlike anything you’ve seen before that it’s unlikely to be forgotten. Seems it’s as much about creativity as it is about memory. In relation to the passing of time, he states as we get older our experiences become less unique, therefore more forgettable, increasing the sense of one year blending in to the next. He says that’s why it’s important to pack your life with interesting experiences that make life memorable and provide texture to the passing of time. A guy called in during the interview, a photographer, saying he can remember every picture he’s ever taken. I can as well. I can also remember what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Foer’s explanation was that we remember more in our area of expertise. I think he missed part of the truth: the act of seeing the image and clicking the shutter literally fixes the memory, and everything about the moment, in the mind’s eye. This is why photography can be a wonderful tool for enhancing experience, and memory— accessible to anyone. It helps us pay attention, helps us switch from automatic to conscious mode—enlivening the mundane, enriching the everyday.

Life works…

This is in the ‘as good as it gets’ category in the life of a freelance photographer. The very personal image on the right is, simply, my back porch shot on a rainy morning. Rain and mist offer wonderful visual opportunities for capturing evocative images. This one found it’s way to a much bigger audience, ending up as the cover to bestselling author Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel, shown on the right.

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