Sunday, August 13, 2017

Upcoming Online Photography Workshop - An Update

"Be still with yourself until the object
of your attention affirms your presence."
- Minor White (1908 - 1976)

This is an update on (along with a few more details about) my upcoming Shanti Arts sponsored "Cultivating the Art of Simplicity in Photography" online workshop (scheduled for Sep 11 - Oct 23). I just learned that the 8th and last available slot has been taken. For for those of you who have signed up - thank you! - and I look forward to meeting you all (virtually), and engaging in what I hope will be a fun and stimulating couple weeks' worth of discussions and picture making :-)  For those of you who wanted to participate, but were unable to sign up on time, I am sure there will be future possibilities. In the meantime, my email inbox and comment box are always open; and if there is one thing I'm always ready and eager to engage in a dialectic about, it is art, photography, and the creative process in general (well, that, and a bit of physics thrown in once in a while ;-)

There will be six sessions in all (one per week), where by "session" I mean a main topic-of-discussion that will be further elaborated upon, mused-about, and generally used as a basis for follow-up interactive engagement with other workshop participants on the ("secret") Facebook I've set up. Here's how the sessions have broken out:

Session 1 (Sep 11 - 17): Introduction and Preliminary Musings. An overview of what “cultivating simplicity in photography” really means, a discussion of various aspects of photography on which “simplicity” depends, and a few easy exercises to get us started. Introduces key themes of this workshop, before taking a deeper dive in later sessions.

Session 2 (Sep 18 - 24): The “Eye” – Seeking Simplicity in the Environment. This session will explore the idea that cultivating simplicity is synonymous with achieving an expanded awareness of place and time. We will explore how our state of mind determines what is visible to us and profoundly influences what we most strongly resonate with in our surroundings, and provide examples and exercises to heighten our powers of observation and perception. 

Session 3 (Sep 25 - Oct 1): The “I” – Seeking Simplicity Within Oneself. Session 3 expands on a theme introduced during the last session, namely that all of our outwardly directed efforts to find simplicity and beauty “out there” in the world will come to naught if we cannot find the calm center in our own deepest selves, and from which all creative works naturally spring forth. 

Session 4 (Oct 2 - 8): The Medium, Part I – Toward a Visual Grammar. Sessions 4 and 5 focus on the practical side of image making by introducing some of the key tools that a photographer can use to direct and sculpt a viewer’s interpretation of an image; i.e., the essential elements of a visual grammar. We will discuss the basic elements of composition (e.g., the frame, light, contrast, tone, form, texture, etc.) and how they can be combined for a specific purpose, “seeing” the world in color vs. black-and-white, camera position, focal length, depth of field, and shutter speed.

Session 5 (Oct 9 - 15): The Medium, Part II – Abstraction as simplification. Session 5 will expand will expand on the practical lessons introduced in Session 4, and focus on the art of abstraction as, somewhat paradoxically, a concrete method of "simplifying" photographs. 

Session 6 (Oct 16 - 22): Photography as a Path Toward Self-discovery. The workshop concludes by exploring how (in the purest spiritual sense) the “cultivation of simplicity” while doing our photography - indeed, how art and the creative process, in general - may all be be viewed as paths toward self-discovery. 

While the workshop is ostensibly a photography workshop (after all, photography is the core theme, and both the stand-alone essays and embedded exercises all stress image "seeing" and image "creating"), my hope is that the interactive part includes an equal part philosophical dialectic about the meaning of photography. If there is anything my 45+ years of "seeing" the world with a camera has taught me it is that the most meaningful images appear only when the "I" behind the "eye" ceases making distinctions between what is felt and what is seen; when inner and outer landscapes become one. It is a theme I eagerly look forward to exploring - through images and discussion - with workshop participants. Hope to see you online soon :-)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Announcement: Upcoming Online Photography Workshop


"We do not see things as they are,
we see things as we are."
- Anais Nin (1903 - 1977)

For those of you not immediately put off by the (seeming absurdity) of a "complexicologist" (one who studies "complex systems" for a living, which is what my physics Ph.D. has opened the door for me to do during the times I'm not wandering around with my camera) leading an on-line workshop on "simplicity" in photography, I'd like to announce that that is precisely what I will be doing from September 11 to October 23 under the kind auspices of Shanti Arts. The title of the workshop is "Your Inner Gift: Cultivating the Art of Simplicity in Photography," and you can read a summary of it here.

Though details are still to be determined, the logistics will work roughly as follows. There will be a dedicated site (which I'll host on my personal website, and provide usernames and passwords to whomever signs up) on which, at the start of each week, I will post a new page of links for an extended essay (between 12-20 pages in length), exercises (some to ponder on, some to actually do), and an audio intro by me offering a "bird's eye" view of what a given week's topic is about. There will also be a private Facebook page that everyone can post images, make comments, ask questions, get feedback, etc. Depending on the number of people who sign up, arrangements can also be made for a private chat at mutually convenient times. It is designed to be informal but informative and, I hope, fun. Except for a weekly time of posting (which will see a new page up on the same day each week), and whatever mutual agreements are made for 1-on-1 voice sessions, the interactivity will be dictated entirely by the predilections and schedules of individual participants.

Perhaps some of you who have expressed an interest in my particular "style" of images and posts throughout the years (and have sent in many kind thoughts and wishes in that time) may be interested, or know someone who might be interested, in signing up for the workshop. I'll be posting additional thoughts and details as they self-organize in the coming weeks.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Other Point of View


"Science is a second-order expression [of the world]. Science has not and never will have by its nature the same significance qua form of being as the world which we perceive, for the simple reason that it is a rationale or explanation of the world.... Scientific points of view according to which my existence is a moment of the world's are always both naive and at the same time dishonest, because they take for granted without explicitly mentioning it, the other point of view, namely that of consciousness, through which from the outset a world forms itself round me and exists for me. To return to things themselves is to return to that world which precedes knowledge, of which knowledge always speaks and in relation to which every scientific schematization is an abstract and derivative sign language, as in geography in relation to the countryside in which we have learnt beforehand what a forest, a prairie and a river is."

- Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 - 1961)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Tiny Little Database


"The beauty in the genome is of course that it's so small. The human genome is only on the order of a gigabyte of data...which is a tiny little database. If you take the entire living biosphere, that's the assemblage of 20 million species or so that constitute all the living creatures on the planet, and you have a genome for every species the total is still about one petabyte, that's a million gigabytes - that's still very small compared with Google or the Wikipedia and it's a database that you can easily put in a small room, easily transmit from one place to another. And somehow mother nature manages to create this incredible biosphere, to create this incredibly rich environment of animals and plants with this amazingly small amount of data."

- Freeman Dyson (1923 - )

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Eerie Order


"It turns out that
an eerie type of chaos
can lurk just behind
a facade of order;
and yet, deep inside the chaos
lurks an even eerier type of order."

 -  Douglas R. Hofstadter (1945 - )

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wonder


"When the first encounter with some object surprises us... this makes us wonder and be astonished... And since this can happen before we know in the least whether this object is suitable to us or not, it seems to to me that Wonder is the first of all the passions. It has no opposite, because if the object presented has nothing in it that surprises us, we are not in the least moved by it and regard it without passion."

- Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Unbroken Movement


"There is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but which can be known only implicitly, as indicated by the explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of our whole and unbroken movement."

- David Bohm (1917 - 1992)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Quietude


"Allow the heart to
empty itself of all turmoil!
Retrieve the utter tranquility
of the mind from which you issued.

Although all forms are dynamic,
and we all grow and transform,
each of us is compelled
to return to our root.
Our root is quietude."

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Sentinel


"Think of such civilizations, far back in time against the fading afterglow of creation, masters of a universe so young that life as yet had come only to a handful of worlds. Theirs would have been a loneliness of gods looking out across infinity and finding none to share their thoughts."

Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Unapproachable Silence


"My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The "I" in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable."

- Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Simplicity


"When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all incumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. "

-  Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Balance


"In the fifteenth century, Marsilio Ficino put it as simply as possible. The mind, he said, tends to go off on its own so that it seems to have no relevance to the physical world. At the same time, the materialistic life can be so absorbing that we get caught in it and forget about spirituality. What we need, he said, is soul, in the middle, holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world."

- Thomas Moore (1940 - )

Friday, April 28, 2017

Creating Divisions


"The general tacit assumption in thought is that it’s just telling you the way things are and that it’s not doing anything – that 'you' are inside there, deciding what to do with the info. But you don't decide what to do with the info. Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives false info that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us. Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally."

- David Bohm (1917 - 1992)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Suggested Reality


"You must suggest to me reality; you can never show me reality.

...all thinkers are apt to become dogmatic, and every dogma fails because it does not give you the other side. The same is true of all things, art, religion and everything else. You must find a third, as your standpoint of reason. This is how I came to work in the science of geometry, which is the only abstract truth."

- George Inness (1825 - 1894)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Great Dream


"Coincidence is the simultaneous occurrence of causally unconnected events...If we visualize each causal chain progressing in time as a meridian on the globe, then we may represent simultaneous events by the parallel circles of latitude...Thus progressions of causal events proceed in one direction, while coincidences link these events from a completely different direction, in a completely different progression. One might say the "motives" of coincidence are of a different "character" or even from a different 'dimension' from causal events.

All the events in a man's life accordingly stand in two fundamentally different kinds of connection: firstly, in the objective, causal connection of the natural process; secondly, in a subjective connection which exists only in relation to the individual who experiences it, and which is thus as subjective as his own dreams, whose unfolding content is necessarily determined, but in the manner in which the scenes in a play are determined by the poet's plot. That both kinds of connection exist simultaneously, and the self-same event, although a link in two totally different chains, nevertheless falls into place in both, so that the fate of one individual invariably fits the fate of the other, and each is the hero of his own drama while simultaneously figuring in a drama foreign to him--this is something that surpasses our powers of comprehension, and can only be conceived as possible by virtue of the most wonderful pre-established harmony...It is a great dream dreamt by the single entity, the Will to Life: but in such a way that all his personae must participate in it. Thus, everything is interrelated and mutually attuned."

- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nearer and Farther


"All architecture is what you do to it
when you look upon it,
(Did you think it was in the white or gray stone?
or the lines of the arches and cornices?)

All music is what awakes from you
when you are reminded by the instruments,
It is not the violins and the cornets,
it is not the oboe nor the beating drums,
nor the score of the baritone singer singing 
his sweet romanza, nor that of the men's chorus,
nor that of the women's chorus,
It is nearer and farther than they."

- Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Looking at Yourself


"How many of us now realize that space is the same thing as mind, or consciousness? That when you look out into infinity you are looking at yourself? That your inside goes with your entire outside as your front with your back? That this galaxy, and all other galaxies, are just as much you as your heart or your brain? That your coming and going, your waking and sleeping, your birth and your death, are exactly the same kind of rhythmic phenomena as the stars and their surrounding darkness? To be afraid of life is to be afraid of yourself."

- Alan Watts (1915 - 1973)

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Restructuring Consciousness


"The holistic mode of consciousness is complementary to [analysis]... this mode is nonlinear, simultaneous, intuitive instead of verbal-intellectual, and concerned more with relationships than with the discrete elements that are related. It is important to realize that this mode of consciousness is a way of seeing, and as such it can only be experienced in its own terms. In particular, it cannot be understood by the verbal-intellectual mind because this functions in the analytical mode of consciousness, for which it is not possible to appreciate adequately what it means to say that a relationship can be experienced as something real in itself. In an analytical mode of consciousness it is the elements which are related that stand out in experience, compared with which the relationship is but a shadowy abstraction. The experience of a relationship as such is only possible through a transformation from a piecemeal way of thought to a simultaneous perception of the whole. Such a transformation amounts to a restructuring of consciousness itself. … Whereas we imagine movement and change analytically, as if the process really consisted of a linear sequence of instantaneously stationary states (like a sequence of snapshots), when movement and change are experienced holistically, they are experienced as a whole. The elements which are experienced simultaneously in this mode are thus dynamically related to each other, and this dynamical simultaneity replaces the static simultaneity of the analytical mode."

- Henri Bortoft (1938 - 2012)

Monday, April 03, 2017

Mysterious and Unexplorable


"We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature."

Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Sit and Quiet Yourself


"Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow. You'll be amazed at what will come out on paper. I'm still learning what it is about the past that I want to write. I don't worry about it. It will emerge. It will insist on being told."

- Frank McCourt (1930 - 2009)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Calmness


"Thus Gotama [Buddha] walked toward the town to gather alms, and the two samanas recognized him solely by the perfection of his repose, by the calmness of his figure, in which there was no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace."

- Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Perspectival View


"What prohibits me from treating my perception as an intellectual act is that an intellectual act would grasp the object either as possible or as necessary. But in perception it is 'real'; it is given as the infinite sum of an indefinite series of perspectival views in each of which the object is given but in none of which is it given exhaustively."

- Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908 - 1961)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Reciprocal Analogy


"It is imagination that first taught man the moral meaning of color, of contour, of sound, and of scent. In the beginning of the world it created analogy and metaphor. What would be truly surprising would be to find that sound could not suggest colour, that colours could not evoke the idea of a melody, and that sound and colour were unsuitable for the translation of ideas, seeing that things have always found their expression through a system of reciprocal analogy."

- Charles Baudelaire (1821 - 1867)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Everything We See


"Everything we see 
hides another thing,
we always want to see 
what is hidden by what we see."

"Only thought can resemble.
It resembles by
 being what it sees, 
hears, or knows; 
it becomes what 
the world offers it."

Rene Magritte (1898 - 1967)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Matter into Spirit


"It is not God
who will save us,
it is we who
will save God...

...by battling,
by creating,
and by transmuting
matter into spirit."

- Nikos Kazantzakis (1883 - 1957)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Making the Invisible Visible


"The camera is not only an 
extension of the eye but of the brain.

It can see sharper, farther, 
nearer, slower, faster than the eye.

It can see by invisible light.

It can see in the past, 
present, and future.

Instead of using the camera 
only to reproduce objects, 
 I wanted to use it to make what is 
invisible to the eye — visible. "

Wynn Bullock (1902 - 1975)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Oneness


"The first peace, which is 
the most important, 
is that which comes within 
the souls of people when
they realize their relationship, 
their oneness,
with the universe and 
all its powers,
and when they realize 
that at the center of the
universe dwells the Great Spirit,
and that this center is 
really everywhere,
it is within each of us."

- Black Elk (1863 - 1950)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Penetrating Matter


“The farther and more deeply
we penetrate into matter,
by means of increasingly
powerful methods,
the more we are confounded by
the interdependence of its parts...
It is impossible to cut into the network,
to isolate a portion without it becoming
frayed and unravelled at all its edges.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

World and Self


"To the vast majority of people 
a photograph is an
image of something within 
their direct experience:
a more-or-less factual reality.

It is difficult for them 
to realize that the
photograph can be the source 
of experience, as well as the
reflection of spiritual awareness 
of the world and of self."

- Ansel Adams (1902 - 1984)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Intellectual Rays


"Many an object is not seen, 
though it falls within our range of visual ray,
because it does not come within the
range of our intellectual ray,
i.e., we are not looking for it.

So, in the largest sense,
we find only the world we look for."

- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

True Mysticism


"True mysticism is 
active and practical,
not passive and theoretical. 

It is an organic life-process, 
something which the
whole self does; 
not something as to
which its intellect 
holds an opinion."

- William James (1842 - 1910)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Transmuted Symbols


"The physical object, to me, 
is merely a stepping stone
to an inner world where the object,
with the help of the subconscious drives 
and focuses perceptions,
becomes transmuted into 
a symbol whose life is beyond the
life of the objects we know."

- Clarence J. Laughlin (1905 - 1985)

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Mysterious Reality


"We know that behind every image revealed there is another image more faithful to reality, and in the back of that image there is another, and yet another behind the last one, and so on, up to the true image of that absolute, mysterious reality that no one will ever see."

- Michelangelo Antonioni (1912 - 2007)

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Soul of Objects


"Nature is not matter only,
she is also spirit.
Spirit seems to be the
 inside of things...
the soul of objects."

- C. G. Jung (1875-1961)

Friday, March 03, 2017

Quiet Mind


"When the mind is
very quiet, 
completely still,
when there is not a movement 
of thought and therefore no experience,
no observer, then that very stillness 
has its own creative understanding.
In that stillness the mind is 
transformed into something else."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986)

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Things Unknown


"There are things known
and there are things unknown,
and in between are
the doors of perception" 

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Symbolic Universe


"No longer in a merely physical universe,
man lives in a symbolic universe.

Language, myth, art and religion
are parts of this universe.

They are varied threads which
weave the symbolic net,
the tangled web of human experience.

No longer can man confront reality immediately;
he cannot see it, as it were, face to face.
Physical reality seems to recede in proportion
as man's symbolic activity advances.

Instead of dealing with the things
themselves man is in a sense
constantly conversing with himself.

He has so enveloped himself in
linguistic forms, in artistic images,
in mythical symbols or religious rites that he
cannot see or know anything except by
the interposition of this artificial medium."

Ernst Cassirer
Philosopher (1874 - 1945)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Inevitability of Art


"Art need not be intended.

It comes inevitably as 
the tree from the root,
the branch from the trunk, 
the blossom from the twig.

None of these forget the present in 
looking backward or forward.

They are occupied fully with the 
fulfillment of their own existence."

- Robert Henri (1865-1929)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Coexistence


Autopoiesis = Self-Creation
(from Greek auto = “self” and poiesis = “creation)

"… a network of mutually interacting processes that
continuously both create, and sustain, components that
regenerate the network of processes that produce them.

There is a constant and intimate contact among the
things that coexist and coevolve in the universe,
a sharing of bonds and messages that
makes reality into a stupendous
network of interaction and communication.”

Philosopher Systems Theorist (1932 - )

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Only in the Mind


"To Taoism that which is absolutely still or absolutely perfect is absolutely dead, for without the possibility of growth and change there can be no Tao. In reality there is nothing in the universe which is completely perfect or completely still; it is only in the minds of men that such concepts exist."

- Alan Watts (1915 - 1973)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Sacred Place


"Sacred space is a space that is transparent to transcendence, 
and everything within such a space furnishes 
a base for meditation, even for the youngest child. 

When you enter through the door, 
everything within such a space is symbolic, 
the whole world is mythologized, 
and spiritual life is possible. 

This is a place where you can go and 
feel safe and bring forth what you are 
and what you might be. 

This is the place of creative incubation. 
At first you might find that nothing happens there. 
But if you have a sacred place and use it,
 you will eventually find yourself again and again."

- Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Quality of Beauty


"...the supreme quality of beauty being 
a light from some other world is the idea ... 

... that the matter is but a shadow, 
the reality of which it is but the symbol."

- James Joyce (1882 - 1941)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Complex Tapestry


"Its substance was known to me. The crawling infinity of colours, the chaos of textures that went into each strand of that eternally complex tapestry…each one resonated under the step of the dancing mad god, vibrating and sending little echoes of bravery, or hunger, or architecture, or argument, or cabbage or murder or concrete across the aether. The weft of starlings’ motivations connected to the thick, sticky strand of a young thief’s laugh. The fibres stretched taut and glued themselves solidly to a third line, its silk made from the angles of seven flying buttresses to a cathedral roof. The plait disappeared into the enormity of possible spaces.

Every intention, interaction, motivation, every colour, every body, every action and reaction, every piece of physical reality and the thoughts that it engendered, every connection made, every nuanced moment of history and potentiality, every toothache and flagstone, every emotion and birth and banknote, every possible thing ever is woven into that limitless, sprawling web.

It is without beginning or end. It is complex to a degree that humbles the mind. It is a work of such beauty that my soul wept..."

- China MiƩville (1972 - )

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Dance of Interacting Parts


"We have been trained to think of patterns, with the exception of those of music, as fixed affairs. It is easier and lazier that way but, of course, all nonsense. In truth, the right way to begin to think about the pattern which connects is to think of it as primarily (whatever that means) a dance of interacting parts and only secondarily pegged down by various sorts of physical limits and by those limits which organisms characteristically impose."

- Gregory Bateson (1904 - 1990)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Metaphysical Speculation


"There is a philosophy that says that if something is unobservable -- unobservable in principle -- it is not part of science. If there is no way to falsify or confirm a hypothesis, it belongs to the realm of metaphysical speculation, together with astrology and spiritualism. By that standard, most of the universe has no scientific reality -- it's just a figment of our imaginations."

- Leonard Susskind (1940 - )

Monday, February 13, 2017

Probabilities


"In the beginning there
were only probabilities.
The universe could only
come into existence
if someone observed it.
It does not matter that the observers
turned up several billion years later.
The universe exists because
we are aware of it."

- Martin Rees (1942 - )

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Coexistence


"There is a constant and
intimate contact among the
things that coexist and co-evolve
in the universe;
 a sharing of bonds and
messages that makes reality
into a stupendous network
of interaction and communication."

- Ervin Laszlo (1932 - )

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rhymes


"There is no closed figure in nature
Every shape participates with another.
No one thing is independent of another,
and one thing rhymes with another,
and light gives them shape."

- Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 - 2004)