Musings on Photography

Be here now

Posted in art is a verb, interesting blogs, process by Paul Butzi on August 31, 2007

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From the BBC website, a link which reads “Day in Pictures: Some of the most striking images from around the world“. (there’s no reason I’ve picked on the BBC version, here. I just saw it when reading an article on Vint Cerf. There are similar links on the web page for every news service on the planet.)
“Striking images,” I thought. I looked at the images, and they were, indeed, striking. Exotic. Unusual, extraordinary. Striking, fair enough. But, I wondered, what of the claim that this is represents a worldwide day in pictures? Um, not so much.

The news focuses on the striking. If it’s not something bad, it’s go to be something exciting or exotic, something the news people think lies outside our daily life. You don’t read about the pleasures of the quotidian in the newspaper, nor do you see still photos or video of it on CNN.

That’s fine, but I think it increasingly leads us down the wrong path. The problem is that it causes us to live out there, instead of right here. It’s not that out there is bad. Things and places and events which are ‘out there’ for me are, naturally enough, ‘right here’ for someone else. The difficulty creeps in when we attend to ‘out there’ to the extent that it interferes with our ability to be ‘right here’.

In that Jungian synchronicity way, I’ve been getting this message from a lot of different directions lately. From Deep Survival, by Laurence Gonzales (a book about why some people survive and others perish), the author lists the first rule of survival: be here now. And, from Paul Lester’s recent posts on photography, Taoism, and his personal spiritual journey – “This simply means that I need more practice in staying in the ‘now’.” And from Doug Plummer’s blog, where he writes so eloquently and transparently about his own creative process, “My entire work life and artistic life is dependent on deep connection and communication with my surroundings, and working from that place.”

And that sort of highlights a paradox. You can’t make good photos, it seems, unless you’re right here, right now, not just physically but also mentally. And yet, at the same time, I sometimes have to remind myself to put down the camera, not worry about capturing this moment, and just be here now.

So sometimes the camera is a tool that helps me be here now. And other times, the camera is a distraction that interferes with my ability to be here now.

7 Responses

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  1. PW said, on September 1, 2007 at 3:37 am

    It’s Vint Cerf with an f silly.

  2. Frank Armstrong said, on September 1, 2007 at 6:02 am

    ….and at times, the camera is the excuse for me. I can exclaim it, blame it, and sometimes hide behind it.

    P’taker

  3. Paul Butzi said, on September 1, 2007 at 7:53 am

    It’s Vint Cerf with an f silly.

    Yes, it is. And now it’s fixed.

  4. Robert said, on September 1, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    “This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing.” – Yoda

  5. Bryan Willman said, on September 2, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Yes and no.

    Clearly, the ability to pay attention to what matters is very important, and sometimes that means the Right Here Right Now.

    But if that is all one ever did, nothing abstract would ever be accomplished (for example.)

    And often, “what’s so great about Right Here, Right Now? I’m sitting in an airplane, it’s night out, and it’s exactly like every other night flight from Boston to Seattle, which is exactly like zillions of other night flights” – better for one’s sanity, and probably for productivity, to be Somewhere Else, at least in Mind.

    So the real task (at which I fail greatly) is to have some control – to be Right Here Right Now when it’s worthwhile – rather than when I’m not distracted by something, or happen to be especially excited by something.

    I find it is fatiguing, and I can generally only do it for some part of the day…

  6. paul said, on September 4, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Great post, Paul!

    Bryan, I don’t think that being in the ‘now’ is boring. It simply means being ‘here’, not elsewhere. To use your example, on a flight from Boston to Seattle, or from San Francisco to Charlotte, which I just did yesterday, you can read, think, write, watch a movie, etc. Being in the ‘now’ is dedicating all of your being to that one moment. You are reading, not reading and thinking about what you have to do next week, or about the book that you should have read last month, or what you are going to do for dinner, etc.

    When your mind is elsewhere (past or future), you are missing out on what is happening right now. It need not be boring. I prefer never to be somewhere else. There’s always something going on, you only need pay attention.

  7. Alex Brikoff said, on September 4, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    I don’t think one can make hard and fast rule about whether or not one can be in the “right here and now” constantly. People are very complex and dynamic creatures, they are seldom, if ever, static in nature.

    I think that if one can ever even come close to understand human nature, one has to somewhat understand the duality of humans and their thought processes. People learn by being “right here”. By assimilating information in the present about the situations they’re in, their relations with other people, about what they’re studying or trying to figure out, etc., etc. But the other aspect of this duality, is people’s ability to take this assimilated information and to analyze it, to learn from it, to interpolate it to other hypothetical situations. This is the stuff that “thought” is born from and, consequently, the creative process that gives birth to ideas, emotions and everything else that makes us human. In order for this analysis and free thought to take place, however, we must remove ourselves from being “right here” and isolate ourselves occasionally within the confines of our mind to be alone with our thoughts.

    That’s why I think that being constantly “right here” and in “this moment” is not really possible for any extended period of time. We have to have time to think, to be alone with our thoughts. That is what makes us human. And, occasionally, take leave of the “right here and now”.


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