How many times have you gone looking for something to find it sitting where you least expected it to be, on your third trip around the house when you were just starting to think you were really losing the plot and it just has to be here somewhere! The same can happen when we are out with a camera; unsightly objects creep into the edges of our frame or we totally fail to notice the awkward shadow that spoils the composition. This seems to happen most when we are looking at familiar things or in a familiar place. We see what we expect to see and fail to see the extraordinary that can reside in the most ordinary of things.
In seeing our expectations rather than reality we are already labelling and judging what is in front of us. We might consider it boring or just think ‘Seen it, done it, got the t-shirt.’ This tendency to ‘tick things off’ and move on to pastures new discourages us from taking a closer look at what is there today…which could be quite different to last time. Freeman Patterson suggests that “Letting go of self is an essential precondition to real seeing.” By letting go you abandon your preconceptions about the subject matter that act as a barrier to seeing, viewing it as if for the first time again, or through a child’s eyes.
“Letting go a little brings a little peace. Letting go a lot brings a lot of peace. Letting go completely brings complete peace.” Ajahn Chah
Letting go helps you to get past what you expect to see and recognise what is really there. Frederick Franck considered that the “me cramp” of being focussed primarily on ourselves interferes with our ability to experience that which is outside of us. Yoga traditions warn of the dangers of identification with the ego, the emphasis on ‘I’ rather than recognising that we are part of something much greater. Just as this self-concern limits our experience of life, so it limits our engagement with the subject of our photographs. The answer? According to the great sage Patanjali, meditation is a way of seeing what is real and letting go of that which is not. Treat photography as a meditation and learn to really see, in more ways than one.