How to use the power of beauty in your photography
Hope this finds you very well. Today I have swapped the wintery life of London for the heat and vibrancy of Mexico City.
I am a little tired of course from the long flight, but there is nothing like beating jet lag with the excitement of being in an incredible country like Mexico.
This is the weather I left behind on my short trip to London. Still beautiful, and when London gives me beautiful winter light like this, I can forgive the cold…
A few days ago I saw this quote on the cover of my mother-in-law’s National Trust magazine, and it struck me as really quite wonderful:
“We all want quiet. We all want beauty…We all need space. Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.”
Octavia Hill, 1883. Co-founder of the National Trust
And it stuck because it combined for me the idea of our human need for quiet + space with the rejuvenating power of witnessing beauty.
When we look at the definition of beauty, it is – “the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it.”
The pleasure of looking. What a gift this is to us as humans, but also as photographers.
One of the most significant things that beauty can bring to our creative lives and our photography is the awakening of inspiration.
Placing yourself slap bang in front of beauty is just a fantastic way to inspire yourself – and, of course, to then lead you to fabulous photos.
Sometimes we need something to shock us out of the boredom and habituation of our life.To remove ourselves from that stale feeling that seems to collect in our minds from being so involved in routine.
To be in total awe of your subject, to be mesmerised, to be thrilled and excited – these are all fantastic emotions to have coursing through your body ready for you to lift your camera and shoot.
Something quite magical seems to happen when we fill our eyes, and spirit, with beauty.
As Joseph Campbell wrote:
“When we are transfixed by beauty, we are beheld in an aesthetic arrest. We are so transfixed that we stop breathing. We well up inside and experience life lived to the point of tears.”
Beauty makes us stop and pay attention.
It makes us revel in something that stirs our spirit and lifts our soul.
But it isn’t something that is just vacuous and pretty – the experience of beauty can be challenging because beauty connects us to the feeling of eternity.
“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.”
It is almost pain and pleasure mixed into one. The perfect explanation of life, right? And as photographers, don’t we want to capture what is so wondrous and strange about this part of life?
I am often placing myself in the midst of incredible beauty. I seek it out everywhere I go.
This is why I love to shoot at dawn – because sunrises can create such intense beauty they make any location, and situation breathtaking.
(And I will be on my usual travel routine by having an early night and shooting sunrise tomorrow.)
Let yourself get lost in beauty…
What I think is important about the witnessing of beauty is this: our eyes get worn out with all that we see – just as our minds get worn out by all the thinking and doing of our lives.
Don’t we all need sometimes to let go of all the worries and things on our mind, and just surrender ourselves into a state of awe? Once in a while?
To surrender to the immenseness and eternalness of life is to refresh one’s spirit.
I felt as photographer Ernst Haas did about Paris – “All I wanted was to connect my moods with those of Paris. Beauty paints and when it painted most, I shot.” When beauty presents itself, let it lead you.
Beauty washes away the cobwebs and gives us the chance to relish something wonderful in a world that can sometimes feel, less than wonderful.
And of course because..
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
I want to spend my life full of passion, creation and appreciating all of this beauty of the world. So I must then make decisions in my day to do exactly that.
I’d love to know if you are seeking beauty when you are shooting?
Let me know in the comments below.
And – a mini photo challenge – share your ‘Just because…beauty’ shots in our Facebook photo sharing group – Light Monkeys.
After I work with a fabulous group in San Miguel de Allende – in a few months time my next workshop is in the mesmerising country of Morocco.
I am taking a small group of people into the heart of the Sahara Desert to photograph its timeless beauty and sweeping landscapes – and capture the gorgeous splendour of a supermoon.
We’ll also be shooting the diverse and changing landscapes as we travel to and from the desert – the red rock mountains, luscious rivers and vast rich orange scenes of the deep desert. And we’ll explore the little villages we encounter along the way.
After our trip deep into the silent beauty of the desert we will explore the ancient and beguiling city of Marrakech, home to some wondrous architecture, vibrant street markets and fascinating history.
We will photograph the iconic sights, capture the people and spirit of the city – as well as venture off the beaten track to explore the local neighbourhoods.
I want to help you capture the feeling of this interesting country and culture, and help you bring your unique vision of Morocco to the world.
As always I want to bring incredible photography opportunities into your life – and this will be one amazing experience.
I have two places left on this workshop – don’t miss this experience and sign up here – or hit reply if you have any questions.
MOROCCO: Marrakech & the Sahara Desert
April 8th – 16th 2020
I’ll leave you with all those thoughts. I hope they have given you something to take with you into your photography this week.
Have an awesome day.
Anthony and Diana