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“A key aspect of creativity is the process of finding great metaphors – symbols that represent something else.” – Ray Kurzweil from his book, ‘How To Create A Mind’
We live in a world where nearly everyone has constant access to a camera of some sort. In fact, you’re probably reading this on a smart phone with about 7 different camera apps installed – including Instagram which is turning social mavens into artists – and I mean that sincerely. As a photographer, it is truly incredible to see so many people adopting this skill as a way of sharing their life experience, as a way of telling their story.
Photography is no longer just a specialized profession that requires overly extensive knowledge to create a stunning image. It is now a form of self-expression for everyone. It is a mode of communication, and it is a chance to share and connect with each other in a much more intimate and meaningful way.
In addition to the incredible social benefits that these readily available cameras bring, it is increasingly clear that the act of taking a photo can actually teach us how to better accomplish goals, overcome obstacles, and maintain a positive mindset in all areas of our personal and professional lives.
There is an exercise that I like to do in my photography workshops that shows the power of our mind when it comes to goal setting. I tell my students that for one week, they are to carry a camera with them and shoot at least 10 scenes a day that have the color yellow in them. The images all have to be of different subjects, and it is ok if yellow is not primarily featured as long as the color is present. To spice it up, there is a reward for shooting the most “yellow” shots. By the end of the exercise, everyone is seeing the color yellow everywhere.
Why is this?
This is because when we give ourselves a task to complete, our subconscious mind automatically goes to work trying to accomplish it. All of the sudden we start to notice things that are yellow – things that any other day of the week are of no significance to us. Is it that these things are suddenly more prominent? No. It is because we have activated a part of our brain that says “look for yellow, I need yellow.” Our amazing brain delivers.
We take it a step further by having to consciously take out the camera and snap the scene. This is embedding into our mind that indeed what we have noticed is important, when we notice it we take action – so now our brain works even harder to find it. Try it! If you’re not seeing yellow in places you have never noticed it before, it would be a first.
When we make something the primary focus of our thoughts, our brain goes to work to find the answers. What photography can teach us is to consciously set our objective, and to pay attention to when those answers do appear.
No matter how productive we are, we will always encounter roadblocks and obstacles. Those little problems that get in the way and sometimes prove deadly to our long-term goals.
By changing perspectives a whole new world is revealed to us. Through the lens of a camera a change in perspective can reveal the volume and distance of an object, or even a hidden subject that helps create an aesthetically pleasing composition.
Shooting a tree from above has completely different characteristics than shooting up the trunk from below. Though they are the same subject, the images tell a completely different story.
In business and in our personal lives it is essential to remain open to new options, new ways of thinking. This change in perspective can reveal itself in many ways – constructive feedback from others, or simply looking at your problem through the eyes of someone else that is completely detached from the outcome.
To think about it another way, a cube appears flat when you’re standing directly in front of one side. When you just take the time to step slightly to the right, a new dimension is exposed. It’s a whole new way of thinking.
We are faced with choices and obstacles each day in business and in life. How we deal with these roadblocks is what defines us both personally and professionally. Taking a picture can help to keep in mind the drastic impact that a simple change of perspective can make on our outcome.
Another exercise I like to recommend is any time you see something beautiful, interesting, or that just simply makes you feel good – take a picture of it. That beautiful sunset you see on your way home from work, pull off to the side of the road and just shoot it. You have the time.
This act makes us more conscious of the beauty that we are surrounded by on a daily basis. It also works at making us more conscious of our own emotions – of knowing when we are feeling good, or what makes us feel good. The more that we can identify with that feeling, the more we will notice it and attract it into our lives.
Photography is a way to intentionally notice these things. It is of course possible to tell ourselves to just be aware of these metaphorical representations in our everyday lives – but for some of us, an extra effort is necessary to truly lock in the significance and commit it to our subconscious.
I continue to shoot because it reminds me to connect with the world around me. It reminds me of how beautiful life is, and of how much control I have over the things in my life that I take notice of. The one true thing that we can control in our lives is our thoughts, and when we pull out our camera to capture something, we are choosing what to focus on in that moment. We are conscious, we are alive.
There are many more examples of photography being a vehicle for success and of well-being – more than I have space to dive into in just one article. There are also many approaches to achieving the state of mind I have mentioned above that have nothing to do with a camera.
The value that I see in using photography to sharpen our mental awareness is that taking a picture is a physical action that forces you to be conscious of what you are doing, it is widely available, very easy to use, and finally – it comes with the gratification of creating something beautiful – and there is nothing more rewarding than making the world just a little more beautiful.
Photos via The Scene Magic
Profile Photo via Emily Griffith