Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thoughts on photography and centeredness

I'm into my third week at an ashram in the south Indian state of Kerala. My days are consisting of meditation, reading Osho, practicing Kalarypiyattu (south Indian martial art) and receiving Ayurvedic massage treatments. Its been a much needed and well deserved break from life from photo life in Bombay.

Needless to say, I've had much time to think, or shall I say 'not think.'

As you photographers out there may have noticed, I rarely mention anything technical about photography on my blog. I don't talk about the latest camera, or which lenses I prefer or which strobes are better than others. There's so much of that info out there that's being articulated (and in most ways better than i could articulate). I receive many emails relating specifically to what gear I use and though i don't mind answering, I think there's better questions.

When I look at how much energy and time is spent on photography in my life, I realize that very little of it is spent taking pictures. Taking pictures is the tip of the iceberg, its what everyone sees and judges you by. But like an iceberg, so much lies below and ALL that lies below is used to create the buoyancy for that little chunk above.

Bringing a meditative approach to these 'hidden' interconnected aspects of your craft help immensely and soon you realize that its not just how you take photos but how you walk, eat, spend time with family...because EVERYTHING in life is interconnected. By 'meditative' I mean centered, unshakable within yourself. Its the place where the mind serves YOU, not the other way around which is often the case.

The mind cannot live in the present moment. It lives only in the past or future. It is either thinking about something that happened already or its anticipating some event. The present moment belongs to something beyond the mind.

Sometimes artists and athletes talk about the 'zone.' This is the place of pure awareness, of 'no-mind.' There is no past or future, you're not thinking, you're not doing... you've become.

Its a great place to be when you're shooting. Clients can feel it. Your talent will feel it. Its magic.

But what about when you're not shooting?

Being centered (in awareness) is invaluable when dealing with the difficult client who feels they need to change elements of your contract halfway through a shoot, or decides to take a few months to pay you. Being centered helps you deal with the spoilt model who won't take direction. Being centered helps you when your phone hasn't rung for a month.

Being centered saves you from yourself.

The key is awareness and awareness brings perspective and equanimity. 'Equanimity' is meeting life as it meets you...with grace. Its also understanding that everything is in a state of flux and change, all things shall pass and fortunes can reverse suddenly. Clinging to the ups and down of life can make us ill and ineffective, it creates havoc in your personal life and it becomes harder to make clear decisions.

Meditation is the process of moving beyond 'mind' to a state of pure awareness. It is in this space of awareness, without the doubts and fears and chatter that the mind continuously generates, that we can begin to tap in and manifest what it is we truly want in our lives.

From one photographer to another (or to anyone really) I recommend meditation and centeredness along with your new 5D and I think some time spent with conscious breath would go great with that 24-70.

Learning more about yourself, discovering aspects of your personality, mining the depths of your soul and turning the strobe on your shadows are as fundamental to being a great photographer as any equipment you buy.

Now THIS is the stuff i like talking about!


JeezoPeezo said...


Your words come at a time of chaos I my life and offer true inspiration. Thanks for the post and more time to “not think”. Peace.


Andreas Holm said...

Keep up the inspiring blog posts!

Kathryn L said...

Like Rob above these are the words I needed to hear this week.

Thanks for the reminder to refocus on life as a whole and not just the pixels.

Chad Zellner said...

Very well put Martin.
I love that your blog isn't all about gear and settings. Especially since most other photography blogs are.

I think being connected with myself is the major driving influence in my photography, not what gear I use. And that's something that isn't always easy to explain to other photographers who want to know. It's very nice to catch a glimpse of your similar ideas and see your end of the spectrum on your blog. Thanks for sharing =)

elsafer said...

interesting the meaning of life of the indian culture... you reports to us, something that i'll like to do, the feeling of their way of living
i'm been practise yƓga, and i have already have ayurvedic massages tratements... ;)
so far , and so near ...

Anonymous said...


I've followed you for years now. You're one of my top 10 inspiring photographers, and what you've written there has been some of the most valuable and inspiring things I have read in months.

Sine 2007, I've made it my goal to work professionally in photography. I am by No means anywhere near, yet I am making a start. I'm 19, I set out on June 14th to travel around the world and write a book. Yeah the pictures won't be technically perfect, in fact i'm pretty sure some people will be like "what the hell is this kid doing" but I'm trying, and i'm trying as hard as I possibly can.

I had my camera stolen in cambodia, and that, despite being totally gutted was a good thing to happen, because it made me realise just how much I love taking photos...

You talk about meditation and centeredness with tremendous passion, and I took that on board with you in mind. I took myself down to the beach the other day, I sat in silence, eyes closed and didn't really think about anything. I was unbelievably peacfull and I felt revived and refreshed when I decided to get up and take some pictures...

I might even begin making this a daily thing. And who knows, I might actually get somewhere with this book, but if It all goes wrong, then I guess I just gotta try harder.

Kindest Regards.

Susan Jones said...


Bill_Lyle said...

Good stuff Martin, you continue to get wiser as the days go by! Thanks for sharing all of your insight. That phone will get ringing again soon and the rupees will pour in.

Keep on doin'!

Ashley Anjani Kumar said...

I agree this moment in my life, I need some inner reflection as I am in doubt about what it is that I truly want and why I want it.... I think I need to have an INNER well. I will look into meditation camps etc and see what I can do in my time in India...I am feeling doubtful about acting..but I am constantly living in the future...maybe that is why I feel doubtful...n e ways...much to discover about the self.

AristonPhotog said...

Wow is all I can say. The quote about the mind being incapable of thinking in present, only the future and the past was awesome. I posted it up on my Facebook as I really wanted other people to see it. This entire post is amazing and inspiring. It is motivating me to continue on my own spiritual journey. Your melding of spiritual awareness and photography adds such a deeper level to this artistic aspect of life. Well done. I am ever eager to see your progress.