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Seeing Simply

Each of us has a vision, a pure way of seeing that is uniquely our own. We are like a one-of-a-kind of camera with an unlimited film supply, recharging batteries and a storage recording bank that edits as we get older. And yet, we don't realize how incredibly unique, how valuable our individual way of seeing really is. Each one of us is captured in a different way by an image.

What I am curious about is: "what turns my head? What grabs my attention? What takes me before I can identify it?" I am interested in core vision: the level of seeing before words, categories, or response. Noticing what touches me, inspires me, allows me to see as a child, discovering the incredible wonder of the life around me for the first time.

There are many layers covering this inner vision. Often my seeing is linked to words and thoughts identifying and naming everything I see. Getting below that level is easy and challenging at the same time. It requires getting beyond how I normally see, how my family sees (or saw), how I was culturally effected. (Does a native in Africa see differently than I do?) My biggest impediment to seeing simply is identifying, judging and naming.

"Today I'm going to go out and take a great photograph."

When I take this intention and agenda apart, I start to notice just how much limits me, how I color the circumstance and the image before I even shoot. I haven't mentioned the word photography or photographer yet. This is another bag of tricks; now we have to carry stuff, worry about numbers, exposures, our worries about the technical end of photography.

Then we get to our personal mobile mind field, the one we bring everywhere: our insecurities about being seen and being judged by our work. How about a little comparison to everyone around us who is more professional, better organized, (better looking!) or has better equipment. The quagmire is getting deeper.

Then last but not least, my doubts: can I do it well enough? professionally? What happens if I don't do it well enough, if I fail and my whole world comes down? It is a wonder that we still want to be photographers! Yet there is an excitement and an enthusiasm to discover, to see! What if I could just show up, completely neutral, ready to receive whatever gift GOD and Creation and the life around me is offering today?

Seeing simply starts now it will never happen later.

I step out, pick up the camera, stand aside from the momentum of my life, and move in pure trust, waiting to be taken by life through my seeing. I pray. I'm ready for that hundredth of a second that turned my head, before words: the moment of pure connection. Discipline carries me through: I shoot the image that catches my eye. Then I return to neutral. I'm trying to quiet my brain from asking "what's next?" I notice the trying, take a deep breath, feel my feet on the ground and move to trust. It is this attitude that leads me into the unknown, uncontrollable next offering.

I can only speak of my approach, my discoveries and experiences. Each of you will continue to discover ways to be more present. You will learn the importance of honoring your internal pace, moving just as slowly or quickly as you need to, for you. In doing so, you will find the gift of tranquility and peace that will help you to see life more simply.

I can't teach people to be present. The best I can do is to be present with people. My advice? Slow down. Notice how you color your photographs before you take them. Discover for yourself how to show up in neutral: seeing simply, simply seeing.



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Copyright Richard A. Cooke III - Molokai, Hawaii, 2003-2010