Photography: Mindful Memory Making
When our first daughter was a baby we accumulated a few child-oriented cassette tapes (do you remember those?), one of which is a collection of Disney tunes that includes the song, “Makin’ Memories.”
“Long before the old model T, ‘round about the turn of the century (the last one, that is) Folks discovered a barrel of fun: Taking pictures by the light of the sun . . .
Catching little pieces of time, Making them your (and making the mine) . . .
Making memories, making memories, taking pictures is making memories . . . .”
It’s a catchy tune, but for some reason it also stayed with me as a constant reminder to use my camera in a more intentional way. I once heard someone tell a friend who was due to leave for vacation to go and “make some memories.” This, too, caught my attention in much the same way. That is, to be somewhere new I might easily forget or overlook my experience if I am not intentionally being present, noticing, processing my surroundings and experience – making a memory that will remain with me longer than my stay.
My husband Howie’s riding buddy, David Lasee, takes beautiful pictures when he goes on his bike rides. He has also listened to a few of my podcasts (God bless him) and mentioned to Howie that his picture taking is a mindfulness practice for him. And it is very evident in the resulting images! Instead of just letting the landscape breeze past as he peddles along a path in his high-tech Lycra and helmet, he notices . . . sees the shadows a bridge casts on the slope below, or between a banister’s posts; and recognizes the signs of the setting sun and its affects on winter’s detritus along the road.
So he stops for a few moments, positioning his bike in a way that suggests it has always been apart of this nature-art. Considers. Frames. Captures. And waits a few more moments for a word or phrase to come to mind so he can use it as caption when he posts the now-memory to Instagram.
My nephew, Ethan Oliver, is another brilliant photographer. To me, many of the images he posts are like poems. They are often of everyday sightings and real people doing everyday things (standing at a bus stop, sitting on a bench of the L, in the doorway of a local storefront) . . . and they are in black and white . . . and the way he captures a shadow or backlighting or silhouette communicates the colors of the moment in a way no color processing every could. He too takes an extra moment to consider a word or phrase or emoji that reflects his own meditation on the scene.
And when you take time with a picture and notice something you might not have noticed before, you feel something, you enter that scene and the perspective of the photographer, and become more in the viewing of it. In this way, Brooklyn photographer, Milissa Spitz, uses her camera to cope with, make sense of her mother’s mental illness, and perhaps bring beauty into the chaotic relationship.
Not all of us have this camerawork brilliance. Nearly all of us though, are using our phones, ones that usually contain a camera. A ministry associated with the United Methodist Church, ReThinkChurch.org, promotes a picture-a-day campaign during the seasons of Advent and Lent. They assign a word for each day around which individuals are encouraged to center and notice a scene that reflects a sense of that word, to take a picture of it and then post it to the community. Then everyone who visits the site can participate in a visual meditation, further enriched by seeing how others see the word in their lives, from their perspectives.
Today, as a Lenten practice, would you consider using your phone (or conventional camera!) mindfully with me?
Take a moment to breathe.
Center your heart and mind.
Consider the word “light.”
What is light to you?
Perhaps it is the opposite of dark? Or is it in the sense of not heavy? Perhaps something else entirely?
Where do you notice light?
If not now, consider it throughout the day and take a picture of something that makes you think of light to you in this way.
Allow the Spirit of God to speak to you in loving light.
As always, you may find resources and a transcript of, and links to the Instagram accounts of the photographers mentioned in this podcast on my website eirenicole.com.
And today may you walk at the pace of grace.