Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking for inspiration

I've come across too many good things today that I need to share.

It all started with this photo:

Matt sent me this via link this morning, and my attention was immediately captured by this beautiful portrayal of a creative genius. I love how contemplative he appears while staring at his own creation, silly as it may be. I also feel a great sense of loneliness in this photo. Perhaps Jim Henson felt alone in his creativity, misunderstood, unable to connect.

I don't know too much after his personal life, except that he died too young and quite tragically, but this photograph of him seems to shed light on a part of his soul that perhaps only I am perceiving.

Or I could be making all of this up.

But, that's what went through my mind when I saw this photograph.

I then watched a part of Stephanie Nielson's talk on beauty she gave last year. She told the story of how she nearly died on a plane crash and then found herself and her beauty again. I think what struck me most about this piece was her testimony of a living God.

When the plane crashed and she woke up in the burning inferno, she experienced something miraculous, personal, and sacred that allowed her to escape the burning wreckage. She would not share the experience, but she testified to any who have doubts that there is a true and living God who loves us and knows our circumstances exactly.

Perhaps for some quite personal reasons and struggles in my own life, this real and humbling testimony of our God struck me to the core and resonated within the walls of my soul. I was reminded that I am, indeed, a child of God.

Romans 8:16
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God

I must have needed that quiet, quickening moment of reminder, and He knew it.

I then saw this video on another's blog:

How incredible! And inspiring. I loved the sentiment she shared that she is not the disease that nearly took her life.

It reminded me of the journey I've had becoming a runner.

Once your body is trained to run mile after mile after mile (after mile, etc.), running becomes psychological much more than physiological. Your body is capable of so much more than you realize when you're half way through a 12 mile run and feeling tight, achey, and tired. Those are the moments that I have to remind myself that this is not about my body anymore. My body is trained, capable, and strong. My mind is the weakness that feels every pain, every stitch, every cramp, and wants nothing more than just to stop running and never run again.

I have my own challenges when it comes to running, and sometimes I think I complain too loudly that my body (in some ways) was not built for running. It's hard, painful, and slow-going. But I still go out every (other) damn day and do it.

Why? Because it's not (only) about my body.

It's about overcoming the mental block that keeps telling me that I can't do this. While my body grows stronger and more capable with every step I take, the essential mental strength comes only incrementally and painfully slow at times. But it comes, and when you hit those strides when, despite the pain, you simply glide along, mentally clear and content, those are the moments you live for. Just for that short amount of time, you've overcome your mind entirely, and you just run.


Two more related photographic inspirations:

This article I read on Slate: The Slow-Photography Movement

I read this article with a huge smile on my face. While I don't necessarily agree with the author's entire sentiment, I get it, and I live it.

"If Step 1 is a long consideration of the subject, Step 2 is the exercise of creative choices—the greatest pleasure that our automatic cameras rob us of. What should be in the frame and what should be excluded is the most obvious decision, but there's also exposure, depth of field, and more technical choices beyond that. Making such deliberate decisions requires a little bit of courage, for you cannot blame the camera if the results are bad. Yet these choices are, to my mind, the whole game. They are what individualizes photography, what puts the stamp of your personality on the photo."

I've written in the past about moments like these. I sometimes spend so much time and energy considering my subject, framing it in my mind, moving to the camera and putting that into action, and then tweaking technical elements here and there, changing the perspective slightly, and then, and only then, do I actually take the photograph. And while I do think that the post-processing of a photograph is important and necessary for the final outcome of that shot I saw in my head, the process he describes is the experience of photography.

Sometimes, for me, it happens quite slow. This month as I've been taking self portraits, it's been painfully slow at times. Self portraits are technically difficult and time consuming because ultimately (in most cases), you are not behind the camera. You cannot see what are you actually photographing until this process is complete. And there's been a lot of trial and error involved for me.

At other times, this process happens fast and sometimes without my knowledge. I can honestly say that I've honed my creative abilities to trust what another photographer calls the "threshold":

"There is no end to photographic possibilities. But there is a point in the making of photographs that marks the moment of decision to release the shutter. That moment might be called the Threshold. On one side of that point, there is no image, only imagined possibilities. On the other side of that point is the consequence of our choice. It is the final truth.

In the Threshold a picture will reach out and demand that it be made. The photographer doesn’t know why. It is a picture without explanation. It is a picture recognized and made before knowing what it means. It is a picture made before you can talk yourself out of it.

To be an artist requires becoming attuned to the Threshold, and to dwell in the moments of clarity and awareness that lay between the imagination of a picture and its realization."

Thanks, Justin, for the further inspiration down this photographic journey.

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