Presence Through a Photographic Lens
PRESENCE THROUGH A PHOTOGRAPHIC LENS
Being “present” or “in the moment” have become cultural catchphrases over the last thirty years. Motherhood, apple pie and being present are the core of what people trust. This is true to such an extent that it verges upon becoming trite. And yet, it is at the heart of spiritual life, practice and development.
I am posting about presence and trying to say something different about it and approach it from a different point of view. I want to ‘write out of the box’ to paraphrase an even more trite phrase. I am speaking of what photography has taught me about being present.
Presence is important because wonderful events often don’t repeat. I decided that I wanted to develop a stock (collection) of sunrise or sunset pictures. My first time out was fall of 2018 at Wachusett Reservoir. Conditions were ideal. Just before actual sun rise, lots of color and a mist rising from the water. Fabulous. In the space of twenty-five minutes I took a zillion pictures of which this one is one of my favorites. The mist gives it a soft almost mystical feel. I could almost feel the Spirits rising with the mist. This was so very exciting. And what is crucial here is that these conditions have not repeated themselves since.
Wonderful events arise and I want to be fully in them. I don’t want to miss them with distractions of inner ruminating, thinking, planning or having anything else on my mind other than what is needed in the moment for the photographic work. These kinds of events occur on their own schedule and their return is not guaranteed in the least. There are 730 sun rises and sets a year but on this day it included a very special combination of elements.
Another of these sorts of events occurred in a very different setting. The Unitarian Church on Main Street in Worcester has decided to refurbish its’ steeple which has completely fascinated me, so I decided to follow the process closely visiting the site three of four times a week for the past four months. There is a ladder all the way to the top. Do people really climb that high? Obviously, they do since the ladder is anchored in place. Turns out in fact people do climb up that far. They are highly trained Steeple Jacks.
For me this is simply one of those quirky little interests being semi-retired gives me time to follow. I’ve never seen anything like this while it is happening and I’m unlikely to see it again. Especially with how old church buildings are it is likely that it goes on often and a brief internet exploration revealed that there are several companies will do this work in New England. But I’ve never seen it live.
Then on Monday, April 20, 2019, I just had a hunch that kept telling me to go to the steeple. Fortunately, I listened. I went there and got this image.
As I am photographing this I have two feet on the ground and with no intention of climbing anything and I’m practically hyperventilating. I have no idea what he is feeling but I am in complete awe. I am present totally to the picture taking process, my overwhelming respect for his skill and my own almost comical reaction. I got to capture a moment of someone going to heights I go to only in nightmares.
The river of time never stops flowing. Being present allows us to focus clearly in these wonderful moments so we can fully receive it all in its beauty and majesty.