I've just come back from a weekend photo retreat at Villa Maria in Frontenac, MN. ..tired but full of thoughts about photography and my creative direction. The workshop included a focus on spirituality in a broad sense--awareness of beauty, being present in our surroundings, being open to receiving insights and direction from beyond our ordinary chattering brains. Meditation sessions were held each of the two mornings, and readings and discussions preceded each of our forays out to take photos on the beautiful grounds of the retreat center. The idea was to use the camera as a tool of reflection--to heighten awareness of what resonates for each of us in the world or when turning the camera on ourselves. We had several assignments including spending an hour in one area to explore its photographic possibilities in depth, taking a series of self-portraits, and making photos as a small group (photographing each other,)
There were five other women besides myself, plus the workshop leader, Wade Britzius. For me it was refreshing to explore an art form in which I claim no expertise at all, at the same time surrounded by people who were quite knowledgeable about photography and intent on their work. As a group we shot hundreds of photos, which we then edited into a short slide show last night--an interesting process in itself as everyone had sorted through their stuff on computers, choosing a dozen or so each, while others looked on and made comments.
I don't mean to say that I'm a beginner at photography--I've taken countless photos of the usual subjects--family events, travel, friends. And I have stacks of my own photos in my studio of rocks, lichens, foliage and grasses, clouds, water... (I never copy these directly but refer to their colors and textures for inspiration.) I have a good digital camera to take pictures of my paintings, and my knowledge of how to use it has been sufficient to produce decent, if not wonderful, images.
But for all that experience, I've only occasionally thought of photography as anything but a means to an end--to document something, or to provide a painting reference. Sometimes I've been lucky and actual art has occurred, but not with much intention on my part.
This weekend opened up the idea of approaching photography with the same eyes I use as a painter, to be far more aware of composition and content. I'm suddenly much more interested in taking photos for their own sakes. At the same time, I can't help but mull over what connection this might have to my painting. I've always believed that the "real" world energizes my abstraction, so maybe paying more attention to it through the camera's eye will feed this connection.
In addition to the photo at the top of this post are a few more from the weekend, below. Interesting that many of my favorites were shot in black and white. There are several grape vines, since I chose a grape arbor as the place to spend my hour of investigation. The shadow image is from the session when we broke into small groups, and last is a self portrait.