Monday, March 23, 2009

Art as a Spiritual Practice & Bowling

Hey there everybody!

So, my talk went well at RedLine last week. Thank you all so much for coming out, it was fantastic to see you all there. Apparently we tripled the attendance of any previous speaker- go team!

Anyway, for those of you who did not make it (and even those of you that made it) I am teaching a Contemplative Photography workshop in April. So if you are interested in delving into the spiritual aspects of art making- come on out!

At the talk one question that an audience member asked stood out and left me thinking. She asked what a more contemplative way of art making has to do with quantum physics- specifically the bit of quantum theory that talks about the role of the observer in experiments of modern science. So, a bit of background is required- one aspect of quantum theory states that an observer will alter the results of the experiment. Literally the fact that the experiment was being conducted by someone who thought the outcome would turn out a certain way, could force it to have that outcome. In particular some scientists who believed light was really small particles conducted experiments that ended up confirming that hypothesis, and scientists who believed that light was a wave did the same experiment and concluded that light indeed was a wave. The same experiment had two outcomes, the only variable was the person conducting the experiments. So, the oserver changed the outcome- just by being there.

As photographers we are at our core observers. So I can appreciate the comparison. The question is, by observing- do we as photographers change reality? Not just show a differet perspective, but actually change the outcome or order of events? I would have to say yes, but would love to hear what you think. Please add a comment below...

Also, on Wednesday we had a fantastic nigt of bowling with all of the Working wih Artists staff and interns. True to form, there were at least 5 cameras there to record the evnts. We bowled a ton- and had a great time. And, interestingly enough and to bring up the point of my story, when someone would get up and bowl they would bowl much better if they were not being photographed. By photographing a bowler, we made them bowl badly! In the act of being observed by a person with a camra people do a worse job. Wow!

So next time you want to bowl well, leave your camera at home.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Contemplative Photography: What the Heck...

Howdy. I teach a class on Contemplative Photography (in act the next class begins April 9th!) and the question that is often asked first is what does the phrase even mean?

So, I thought I would expand a bit on this idea. The word contemplative on its lonesome simply means to view with continued attention, or to observe thoughtfully. To observe thoughtfully... should not all of our photographs be contemplative by this definition? Should we not as artists using photography as our medium be making images everyday that are only made with careful and thoughtful observation? I would think so, but alas, 'tis not so.

Often we see something in the 3D reality of our world and we decide that we would like to make a photograph of that something and call it our own. So we immediately hold our camera to our face and snap a picture. Sometimes it is captured adequately and sometimes... not so much. When it does not work, we often do not know why, but the image rendered on the page does not match the image in our mind. There are TONS of reasons for this- one biggie is that we are alluding to third dimension without having one. A piece of paper is a two dimensional picture plane, somethings get lost in translation from 3D to 2D (more on this in another post). There are some neat things you can do compositionaly because of this (more on this in another post, too!)

Sometimes we adequately capture the "thing" in the photograph, but somehow miss the mark in describing our intended emotional response to the thing. In other words, sometimes a picture of a lake is simply a picture of a lake- when in fact it would be a far more interesting image if we were able to capture our emotional response to the lake, like tranquility. This is because photographs are not just a representation of things in a frame- no, what photographs are "of" are actually emotional responses to things found in our world, (more on this in another post, too!). It is our responses that are so captivating.

So, as artists we are guiding our viewers to feel the same thing we do about a subject. Or perhaps, maybe not always get them to feel the same thing, but at least let them know how we feel about it.

I have somehow strayed away from my original thoughts on contemplative photography. Sorry about that. Contemplative- observing thoughtfully- right back on track. With the word "observe" this would imply that there is one who is doing the observing, so lets look at the observer.

The observer is the photographer, the final picture created is the "proof" of that observation. It is a visual depiction of the mind that did the observing. What I am getting at is that a photograph is an extension of the mind that observes. An extension of the mind, wow. We have a way of expressing exactly how we see/feel about a subject. As a photographer we have the ability to use a device that can render in utter perfection the thoughts that we have. We have our camera!!!

Anyway, if this sounds interesting to you in any way shape or form. Please come join me next Tuesday night at RedLine where I will be giving a public talk on Conmtemplative Art. The idea is to bring up some interesting ideas such as these and discuss them in an open forum. As artists we learn from one another, so I look forward to hearing and learning from you.


Please join me at Redline!

Contemplative Art: Art as a Spiritual Practice
a talk with Greg Cradick, Executive Director, Working with Artists
Tuesday, March 17th @ 6:00p
2350 Arapahoe St
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 296-4448