Photography and Time

“Time is the horizontal dimension of life, the surface layer of reality. Then there is the vertical dimension of depth, accessible to you only through the portal of the present moment.”

- Eckhart Tolle

I have been making a conscious effort to practice being present in each moment, being rooted in the perpetual now. In the practice of releasing the past, I am able to liberate myself from sadness, nostalgia, grudges, and the exhaustion of the analytical brain, spinning endlessly, trying to make sense of situations that have transpired. By being present, I am also able to release anxiety and anticipation of future events and allow myself to root into my body and my breath now

In this practice, I have found myself questioning: Can the practice of presence from moment to moment be reconciled with the practice of photography? 

Photography both helps and hinders my ability to be present. When I am in the world, the act of noticing and actively seeing is a sensory experience that brings me an awareness and sense of presence that I didn’t possess before I picked up a camera on a regular basis. As long as I am photographing without agenda, and with receptivity and openness to how moments transpire, I am able to practice presence while photographing.

I am finding the process of post-production to be more challenging. The second the shutter clicks, the present moment passes and the image that remains becomes a slice of time I am able to hold on to indefinitely. Every time I review images of past experiences, it is a challenge to root into now and to see the photos I’ve made with an objective mind and eye. There is a powerful unconscious tendency to allow my mind to replay certain moments over and over, analyzing and seeking understanding where there has been confusion or misunderstanding. As a photographer, I have the power to select and edit images and twist them into subjective versions of reality, most commonly known as storytelling. Crafting stories about one’s own life offers up a kind of wormhole into a warped version of the past, a dangerous practice. What purpose does this serve? Is it leading me to experiencing more joy? 

I am finding that in order to work with these visual slices of the past while still being present, I must fully detach from my emotional connections to these experiences and be able to view my own work objectively. A strange practice for which I am absolutely a beginner. 

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