Recently I began combining my photographs into composites and making a new kind of still life photographs.
I discovered that these new directions in my work have brought me home to myself in a way I haven’t done before.
It started accidentally (as many good things do).
I am a member of an artist way group that follows the practices identified by Julia Cameron in her Artist Way Trilogy. One day I was sitting in the shade of a tree on our deck writing in my journal (one of the daily practices for the Artist Way group) when I noticed the way the movement of the leaves in the breeze created shadows that danced across the pages of my journal. It felt as if the trees were writing a story on the pages in front of me.
I hurried to get my camera and make photographs of the dance of shadows and light. Afterwards when I was editing the photos I decided to practice some compositing techniques that I’ve been learning in an online class. I thought about what kinds of things I wanted to write in my journal photographically and then picked a photo of a Buddha statue and another photo of a beautiful weed in our back yard and brought them onto the pages of the journal in the photograph.
The result surprised and delighted me and made me want to make more images that reflect how I see and feel about my life.
I see myself in this work—it highlights the things that matter to me, light me up, sustain me, and fill me with joy.
“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”
― Natalie Goldberg
You may notice that I have used a lot of Buddhist statues in this work (see photos below). I do this not because I identify with being a Buddhist (I am not), but instead because of the great gifts that practices like meditation, self-compassion, and loving-kindness have brought to my life. Another reason I use these images is simply because I find them beautiful, peaceful, and uplifting.
I also began an online still life photography class this week and immediately brought ideas from my new compositing discoveries into my still life assignments. I found myself creating a still life that tells the story of me, my black raspberries, the blue jays, and the bird netting I reluctantly used to prevent the birds from eating all my berries. (Read the story in my blog post Being Here.)It was fun for me to set up and tell the story through use of a still life and it felt like making a poem.
Opening myself up to learning new techniques and trying new things keeps showing me more about who I am.
I think making art is a way to express (and discover) how I see and experience the world.
“Writing is the act of discovery.”
― Natalie Goldberg,
And I believe that making photographs or making any kind of art is an act of discovery if you practice it regularly and diligently.
Permission to create poetry
Making photo composites is a lot like writing poems.
If I were a writer I think I would want to be a poet. Poetry speaks to my heart and soul.
Because I am a photographer, I choose to create photographs that feel like poems. Perhaps I am the only one who can feel the poetry in them. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I keep on creating picture poems that speak to me and I keep discovering me.
What practices wake you up and help you discover you?
May you walk in beauty.