Simple ideas for your photography: the power of silence

“Create, artist, do not talk”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Hola Amigos,

How are you all? I hope life is good and things are all well and happy in your household.

I am back in our little beach town in Spain after a 3 week trip to Italy – a wonderful time filled with great adventures and awesome people in Venice and Palermo.

I’m glad to be getting back to my simple life here: going kayaking with my son; continuing my photographic exploration of this beautiful part of Spain; renewing my energy and taking on new challenges with our business.

One thing I often see in my teaching is people struggling to be present. To allow themselves to be fully in the moment. I see people as they try very hard to capture the moment – but more often that not, they are not actually inhabiting the moment.

For me the magic of photography happens when you are fully present, fully awake to the aliveness all around you. Not lost in your thoughts, wondering where to go next or thinking about your aching feet.

If I were to give you one way to be more present and more engaged with your photography, it would be to start with being quiet, to start exploring silence.

Silence can be thought of as neutral energy. But I actually believe it is incredibly powerful, incredibly rich with possibility and helps us to start awakening creativity.

Being quiet, being silent, is an intensely nourishing experience.

Silence can take us inside of ourselves, unlocking our imaginations, thoughts and ideas.

Silence also allows us to truly be aware of what is outside of ourselves, without the chatter and distraction of what we are usually doing – reading, writing, talking etc.

It is a gateway to inhabiting the present moment.

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” Francis Bacon

Not all silence is created equal

When you are quiet what often happens is that your thoughts become louder. Having a time of quiet can just lead to opening the door to a noisy cacophony of worries, distractions and remembering more things for your to-do lists.

But the trick is to get beyond that river of thoughts – and into the vast, nourishing beautiful silence behind it.

Your thoughts are never going to stop, but you can choose to ignore them, for a little while at least.

For me the easiest way is to just start paying attention to the world around me – looking at the light, the colours around me, the people, the trees.

Whatever is there in your surroundings can help you become present simply by observing.

And by nourishing that habit of paying attention to what is happening here and now in the world will bring you more into the present moment.

Putting down the technology

We have a lot of discussions about technology in our household. We have a 12 year old boy who, if we let him, would live on his computer. And I can relate. I love my technology a lot. I am a computer nerd (says Di; I don’t say that of course).

But I also think that technology can be too distracting, and eat up all of that ‘in-between’ time we used to have – the train ride to work, the time before bed, the hour at the park watching your child play – when we could be day-dreaming, wandering, looking or being creative.

I didn’t realise quite how much technology had weaved its way into my life until I had a month of almost no-technology last year in Cuba.

The internet in Cuba is extremely sparse. Most of the access I found involved sitting on the side of the road in the beautiful early morning sunshine, along with a bunch of people, sending emails, uploading photos and checking on business.

Even though it felt frustrating at times not being able to do anything quickly – uploading photos was painful – it was also intensely refreshing to be removed from the internet, and most of my technological activity. To be taken away from the steady drip of bad-news, of unnecessary emails, of the time-suck of social media.

Of course there are lots of great purposes of the internet – I couldn’t live the life I am now without it. I appreciate it. But I know it sometimes overtakes me – it distracts me from what I actually really want to do – which is be creative.

I think Cuba is beyond magical for many reasons – but the fact that I couldn’t do much work except take photos, made it a more intensely creative experience for me. There were no distractions to my creativity. That may be one of the reasons that my Cuba portfolio is the best work I’ve ever done on the streets of a city, I think.

So the simple ideas I am recommending today are:

  • Use the quiet and silence around you to bring you to presence

  • Be careful with technology and things that take you away from a present state of being

So with that I am finishing for today. I’m off for a long walk with my son.

Have a great day, and happy photographing,

Anthony and the magic-word woman Diana