By Yehoshua Halevi
There is a battle raging today and we are all engaged in a fight for our lives. Granted, there is no imminent danger of physical harm, but rather technology is threatening to hijack our most precious moments if not steal our consciousness entirely.
Think this sounds a bit dramatic? Look around. How often do you see someone distracted by a digital device, or more insidious, using their cellphone to preserve a moment of the present so that they can relive it later? A gallant and beautiful attempt it will be. But futile.
I have been teaching photography for more than two decades and what began as traditional lessons in apertures and shutter speeds has shifted dramatically over the past five years. Now, my workshops, walking tours and courses emphasize the most important skill necessary to photography: awareness.
Of course an ability to see, to recognize form and qualities of light, to previsualize and anticipate the decisive moment – these are the time-honored skills employed by the great photographers. Today, though, we first need to master an ability to tune out before even trying to tune in.
Fortunately, there are remedies to this malaise and photography is one of the best. A camera is a powerful and proven tool for developing visual skills and mental focus, mindfulness and awareness to discover details that a glance overlooks or a distracted mind will not perceive. A camera is a weapon to reclaim the lost moments of your life.
It may seem paradoxical to suggest using one form of technology to overcome a problem created by that same technology. But it works for two important reasons. First, there is no need to abandon the technology, go cold turkey and find a new source to nourish our addiction. When adopted prudently, technology can improve and enhance our lives tremendously.
Secondly, learning to see, to slow down and observe more carefully – through the act of picture taking – is a natural remedy to repel the plethora of intrusions that invade our consciousness.
“More than anything, the camera taught me how to see without a camera,” said Dorothea Lange, a 20th-century American documentary photographer. Though she offered this observation more than 70 years ago, it remains robustly true. When you learn to see – to truly see and not just look – the quality of your life is elevated at all times, whether or not you are in the act of photographing.
Photography is not the only medium that will accomplish this. Various martial arts, meditation practices and even prayer aim to center and focus the mind in the moment. It takes commitment and practice to develop this skill, but it will certainly make you a better photographer and quite possibly a more fulfilled person.
I’m gathering a group of photographers to join me on a creative journey over the next 12 months, using photography as the medium to build our identities as artists. Much of the work we will be doing together is aimed at developing visual thinking and observation skills, both for the purpose of improving one’s photography and for reclaiming the lost moments of your life.
We are meeting on Monday, Sept 11 at 7 p.m. for an introduction and preview of what this unique course has to offer.
Advanced registration and for this meeting is required. You may find complete details and register here.
What you will learn in this course:
Class Topics (partial list):
Field Workshops (partial list of potential workshops):