Seeing & Looking
“Slow Photography is the ongoing experience of an intentional, attentive, mindful, patient process of making photographs.” ~ Jim Austin Jimages.
Our thinking and imagining is often the core of our photography. Here are seven more ideas to expand our Slow Photography:
Purpose, patience and practice are the essence of Slow Photography. I believe intentional work is more interesting over time. Also, it may be that when the intention and purpose of our work is crystal clear, we create more coherent bodies of photographic artwork.
Practice techniques for patience. Take a single frame without looking at the camera back. Trust that you did it right. I have often rushed and tried to get an image too quickly, only to miss focus or compose awkwardly. When I am patient, I make better pictures. It helps to explore all angles when we photograph, framing from below and above. Waiting to press the shutter until we get a sense of rightness or aha works well. Know how a place feels, even with your eyes closed. Hear the silence within your scene. Take your time.
When I take images at the Godforsaken speed of light, the camera distracts from my full attention and I lose the sense of place.
Be deliberate with your attention. A while ago I used to say: “I was in a hurry, so I forgot to...pick one: compose, use the correct ISO, think. This is a poor excuse. Think of a pop singer. When singing the national anthem, no musician says: “I was in a hurry, so I left out two lines in the second verse.” To perform at a consistently higher level takes daily practice and this is true for Slow Photography.
When I make photographs with my undivided attention, the camera fades into the background. Photo outings become more memorable, like exquisite meals. They are not only fun, but are savored for their vivid colors, pleasant companionship, and memorable experiences.
4: Be Still
Photo tutorials tell us we should hunt and be always on the prowl for pictures. This may work well for specific ways of seeing. However, a Slow Photography approach invites us to be still and allow the image to come to us. There is no golden rule that says we must have 20 frames per second. Instead of spray and pray, let us savor and meditate. Today, with capture rates so rapid, it’s easy to be imprisoned by the earsplitting marketing myths that we should use a camera like an automatic weapon. Speed, like sharpness, easily become obsessive. A poem by David Wagoner says, when you are lost, “Stand still, the forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.”
5: Never Before Seen
Seek Vuja de, the French for the “never before seen.” Make time to notice the fleeting sensation and feeling: "I've never seen this before." This sensation happens when we do something we’ve done a hundred times before yet suddenly feel as though we’re experiencing something completely new. The idea is credited to comedian George Carlin in a book by Stanford’s Bob Sutton called Weird Ideas that Work. Sutton says “The 'Vuja de' mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. It means shifting our focus from objects or patterns in the foreground to those in the background.”
Ask yourself, “What place do I enjoy going back to? and Where do I go, or imagine I’m going, where I’m most in my flow?” Choose places that breathe life and energy into your being. You may find your interior worries and doubts─your “me bubble”─evaporating when you are fully immersed in your chosen surroundings.
7: Be Curiously Attentive
Think of the last time you left a room to do something and could not remember it once you were in another room. This happens, in part, not because we don’t pay attention when we leave a room and go into another. It’s that we forgot the idea to which we were paying attention. To be remindful is to appropriately recall a past experience into the present in a healing manner.
Text and Photographs by Jim Austin, author. His 2020 book is SUBLIGHT: Seasons in Slow Photography.
Photos and Writings by Jim Austin Jimages