What Moves You to Expression?

This week on Guy Tal’s Facebook page, he posted a picture with a quote by Robert Henri. The idea behind it was that technique is only necessary to “serve you for the idea or the emotion which has moved you to expression.”

I was struck by that phrase “moved you to expression,” and wondered if or how we really know what moves us to expression?

Sometimes we’re not aware of what moves us to expression because we’re looking for that perfect shot that others will like.

Or, we don’t trust what moves us to expression because we fear it will be judged.

Or, we start working what originally moved us to make it “more worthy.”

How do we learn to know and trust what moves us to expression?

1. Respect our feelings.

In my last post, I talked about the passing of my dog, Daisy. The next day I was feeling very sad and went out for a long walk. My intention was to feel the feelings and not photograph anything until I felt a strong resonance or pull. I was twenty minutes into my walk before I came across this scene.
The light sparkling on the water drew me in, but this dead tree leaning towards the water perfectly visualized how I felt. What moves us to expression is often something that reflects our inner state.

2. Notice judgments.

Often, we let our own judgments of what is a worthy photograph or what others think is worthy stop us from acting on what moves us. Years ago, I discovered my deep love for rust and just went with it. Not everyone gets it, but I know I have a few converts or already like-minded rust lovers. This led me to exploring abstract photography more fully.
Here, I noticed the way the light brought out the colours of this rusted post. There’s also a subtle, circular pattern present which also draws me in. If you notice yourself drawn to something, but worry if others will understand it, or think that it’s “not normal,” you’re on to something important.

3. Watch for recurring themes.

Notice when similar subjects keep coming up, not just things like doors or flowers or water, but more subtle connections, like cracks in things, soft focus, moody light, or openings. This is a great exercise in self-awareness and may even lead to a project or exhibit.
One of my many recurring themes is what I call “light paintings.” The example above shows the way light brings out the many colours of green in the plant.

I create albums on Flickr for different themes so that I can keep track of them. Here are a few –  Sand Art, Cracks in Surfaces, and Window Reflections.

This quote by Edward Weston, from a letter he wrote to Ansel Adams, sums it up well.

I never try to limit myself by theories. I do not question right or wrong approach when I am interested or amazed, – impelled to do work. I do not fear logic, I dare to be irrational, or really never consider whether I am or not. This keeps me fluid, open to fresh impulse, free from formulae: and precisely because I have not formulae – the public who know my work is often surprised, the critics, who all, or most of them, have their pet formulae are disturbed, and my friends distressed. I would say to any artist, – don’t be repressed in your work – dare to experiment – consider any urge – if in a new direction all the better – as a gift from the Gods not to be lightly denied by convention or a priori concepts. Let the eyes work from inside out. ~ Edward Weston, from Ansel Adams: Letters (1916-1984)


How do you honour what moves you to expression?


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Adventures in Seeing – Courage

This week at the Adventures in Seeing Google+ community, we’re depicting and writing about the word “courage.” All of our weekly words come from David Whyte’s book, Consolations. Please feel free to join us.

The day I posted the word “courage” as the new word for the week, I lost my beloved pet, Daisy, after 16 good years. Daisy was my first dog, and so the first one to whom I had to say goodbye. It was one of the hardest days of my life.

David Whyte, in his book Consolations, speaks of parenthood as a “timeless test of courage and alignment. To be shaken and realigned with a new and surprising life, come from nowhere. The first courageous step may be firmly into complete bewilderment and a fine state of not knowing.”

We became parents of Daisy because our kids wanted a dog. Little did we know how deeply she would burrow herself into our hearts. The kids grew up and left and Daisy stayed with us.

Courage comes from the French word “coeur” meaning heart. It takes courage to love anyone or anything because that potential loss is always there. Our lives become aligned with theirs.

While the loss is great, the memories and what Daisy taught me will stay forever. She showed me how to depend on others, express her feelings, love unconditionally, be fearless, and just be. I will miss her very much.

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Watching the Clouds Roll Away

I’ve been doing a lot of cloud watching lately. Clouds are a metaphor for passing thoughts and feelings. They’re everywhere, yet always moving along – important to remember.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864 – 1946) was an American art promoter and husband to painter Georgia O’Keefe. He was also an excellent photographer and once spent a year photographing clouds (short video here).

The idea behind his project was to show how his photographs were not connected to subject matter but were “equivalents” to his inner state or feelings about the subject.

I’ve written about equivalents before, and about clouds (see the links below), but I’ve been noticing them more lately because of an Instagram account called “cloudreporter.”

Anyone can submit a photograph of clouds to this account via email and they’ll post it (cloudreporer.co). I’ve submitted a few myself. I thought that I noticed clouds before, but a series of recent road trips has me really paying closer attention.

I’m amazed and in awe of the many different types of clouds there are and how they’re constantly changing. Here are a few that I’ve particularly liked. You can see all at my Flickr album.

What are the clouds like where you are today?

I’ve Looked at Clouds

Thoughts on Equivalence and Contemplative Photography

Cloud Symbolism

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