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“Robert, it’s important to learn to shoot from the heart.” Nancy constantly reminded me just as she nagged me to “go beyond the handshake,”  as well.

4 DropsI miss Nancy.  She died a few years back but she lives on.  Nancy was a seed-planter as I aspire to be and she encouraged her students to dig deeper and not be satisfied with surface and superficial images and for Nancy, the way to get more intimate with the subjects and with photography itself, was by discovering those forms  we truly have a heartfelt affinity for.  Wayne Rowe, who wrote a book awhile back with the same title as this post,  has similar ideas.  While looking for ways to help his students taste more of the creative processes we all share and to sample them from a Buddhist perspective, Wayne Rowe turned to Martin Buber – a 19th century Jewish philosopher to help him describe an essential aspect of shooting from or with the heart.

Buber is most known for his formulation of relationships in terms of” I – Thou” and “I – It,” in which the world as perceived in terms I – Thou which is a world of relation as opposed to a world of experience.  The world of relation is unmediated, direct, and non- conceptual – which is also the world as Zen sees it. On the other hand, when we interact with the world in terms I-it we reduce the world and its objects to things – we look at people as things.  For Buber, the world of I-it is the world of science, of analysis, classification etc.   Shooting from the heart implies relating to the subjects of our curiosity and interest with kindness – relating as an I to a Thou.

My own experience learning to shoot from the heart took different twists and turns.  I suspect we each have our own way to find and I agree with Rowe and with Buber and with the Little Prince that it is “only with the heart that one can see clearly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”   Learning to see in this way with the “eyes of the heart” (Eph. 1:18), or as I prefer to say – seeing through the eyes of a child – describes a way of relating to the world in which the foundation is the noble heart within us all – and the fruits include kindness, compassion, love, joy, gratitude, grace, self-transcendence, moments you will remember and images that stir your hearts.  Rowe concludes his thoughts by suggesting:

Open to the light around you.  At first, you need to consciously create a heightened state of awareness where the mind is open, receptive, and actively looking for images.

Rising to the Occasion

The more you actively look, the more the action will become intuitive and natural, and effortless.  With practice, your eye will be intuitively and subconsciously drawn to the light, and the light will be drawn to your eye.  You will react to the light and you will feel the light and you will find that you’re normal, everyday state of mind has become an open, aware, and receptive.

Open yourself to feeling – look with your capacity to feel, “It goes in through my eyes and out through the camera.”

Look with your capacity to feel, learn to trust your intuition, and to create open, receptive states of mind, pay attention to the light and the contents of your own mind……and to this list I would add to keep in mind the camera always points both ways – so in some sense the subjects we pick reflect some aspect of our selves and the images we create are portraits of who we are.

A day I understood shame