In making an image that expresses a mood, a feeling, an emotion, an experience, it’s important that I be receptive of the world as it comes to me. It’s important that I wait. Sometimes inspiration strikes quickly, and I see in front of me the image I want to make. Sometimes inspiration comes more slowly or not at all. In such times it’s important that I not give up but continue to be present to my world, open to the creative moment that might be revealed at any time.
We all spend time waiting for many different things. We tend to fill our waiting time with activity. Occupying one’s attention with some sort of screen is very popular these days. Witness the number of people engrossed with their cell phone while riding public transportation, walking along, or even crossing the street.
The growing popularity of meditation and mindful practices, such as yoga, is an indication that people see a real value to quieting one’s mind and soul and simply being present without mental or physical activity. I find such a stance is helpful in photography, as I let what is in front of me sink in and make an impression on me. In some sense I let the image that I want to make come to me and not vice versa.
Long exposure images are an obvious instance of waiting for good things to happen in photography, but there are many other times when it takes a period of sitting or walking and observing in order for an image to present itself to me.
This stance of receptive waiting is a key component of the liturgical season of Advent, not simply in the sense that we are waiting for the arrival of Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also in the sense that we wait receptively for God’s self-revelation in our own life.
Advent is a reminder that God comes into our world and into our life. Do we give ourself the opportunity to notice and embrace that presence, or is our life so programmed and full of activity that we miss what’s right in front of us? The season of Advent gives us a chance to pause and notice our need for God and God’s coming into our life to fill that need.
Come, Lord Jesus!