Wednesday, June 4, 2014

putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis

"To deliver oneself up, hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hill, or sea, or desert: to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. This is a true and special vocation. There are few who are willing to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence."

- Thomas Merton

A book I've been reading: The Mind's Eye by Henri Cartier-Bresson. 

“To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis.”

- Henri Cartier-Bresson

“For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give a meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of the mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.”

 - Henri Cartier-Bresson

I've spent a fair bit of time the last few days holding my breath, in the way that one holds one breath while taking a photograph. Still trying for that perfect forest shot. Which I realize doesn't likely exist, or not in the way I have it in my mind's eye.

I like this idea that photography, the camera, may be a sketch book.

I know that there's nothing particularly amazing about any of the photographs I take. Yes, they're good, they're fine. But maybe what they do have going for them is that they're a persistent attempt to record the days, my days. Like a sketch book, the images are at times quick, rough, indelicate, imprecise. They are not perfect, compositionally or otherwise. The subject matter is simply what I have on hand. I've not travelled the world or even across town in an effort to find a breathtaking or revealing subject. I've concentrated, generally, on what was in a three mile radius of my house in the suburbs. Nothing special.

In photographing leaves, for example, my main purpose is to come to a sort of inner silence, to lose myself to that instant where my heart is aligned with what I see. Sometimes the result is better than at other times.

And, if nothing else, I've usually gotten a decent walk out of this pursuit. 


  1. I find your photos extraordinarily beautiful. I live in NYC and trust me visiting your blog feeds my city soul...the greenways the trees the flowers...all the stillness and peace.
    Bless you for sharing...

    1. Thank you, Katie. I envy you beautiful it there so much.

  2. Shawna, I don't think I can put into words what your photographs mean to me. While I am far from an expert on any level, I find they capture something (for the complete lack of a better word) magical and I love how your words bring it all together.

    1. Lovely of you to say, dear Leigh....

  3. This reminds me that I think you'd like the practice of Miksang contemplative photography - you can find more about it at

    It's how I began - aligning heart and mind to flashes of perception.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...