Photography as Practice – A Guest Post by Marcie Scudder

Photography as Practice © 2010 Marcie Scudder

This is the third of several guest posts where blog visitors answered the question  “How has photography had a positive impact on your life?,” a question I’ve been exploring in my recent series “Why Photography?.” Marcie responded with this essay.

It’s something I’ve thought a lot about…so when asked to write about photography…and what it is…and why I practice it daily – I jumped at the opportunity.

Why photography?

A very good question.

I could go back in time and tell you about my very first Kodak instamatic camera..and how I carried it with me everywhere capturing life as I saw it from my knee-high point-of-view. My first ‘real’ camera – I received as a gift from my father while still in high school. It wasn’t long before I went about catching all of my moments of great significance and importance, and before I fell in love with the process of developing and printing in a darkroom. Watching the black and white prints emerge, as if almost by magic. Time taking on a whole new rhythm and beat.

Fast forward.

College…marriage…a career…kids.

Not for a moment did I stop recording my ever-changing life and especially that of my childrens’. It wasn’t until more recently that my passion was re-ignited, this time with a new and different focus.

This more recent story began with an unlikely pair of Pekin ducks, who were intended to live a domestic life, but were abandoned by their owners in a pond not far from my home. It was they who sparked my interest and prompted me to pick up my camera and record – not just my children’s world  – but that of the world around me.

I’d been walking the same path, always in a hurry get to wherever it was I thought I might be going. There was always somewhere I needed to be, someone I needed to see, something I needed to do. So focused on the destination, I was missing out on the journey. It was on this path that these ducks magically appeared. They – the pair of them together – became my daily muse…my inspiration and focus. White beauties in an ever-changing landscape on this singular quiet pond in the heart of the suburban town in which I live.

Quickly – this became not only about the ducks…but a daily exercise in recording the world as I viewed it through my camera lens. The ducks – sadly – met their untimely demise at the first of winter. With wings clipped and unable to fly…they froze in the first of the storms. But – I persevered and continued onwards. There was more – I was certain – yet to be found.

The ‘practice’, as I have come to know it, is about finding the new and extraordinary in the everyday ordinary. It is about nurturing presence and awareness, and recording what is. It is not necessarily about perfection. It reminds me that there is hidden magic in the details, if I actually stop and take the time to look and see what it is I’m looking at.

But then – why photography…and not some other creative form of self-expression?

Photography focuses and grounds me.  It forces me to pay the closest attention to detail. To shadow and light. To composition. To figure and ground. To balance. It acts as a quiet meditation. When looking thru my camera’s lens..the world stops. There is calm centered peace within. With my feet on the ground..and my eye to the camera’s lens – I see all…and only what it is that I am looking at. There is only me. The sound of my breath…my heart beating…an internal quiet where there is nothing other than this day.

Photography acts as a teacher. Through it – I’ve learned to identify flora and fauna and avians that I previously knew nothing about. I’ve learned that by sitting quietly and observing, I can anticipate and thus capture the behavior or movement that might come next. I’ve learned patience and persistence and perseverance. I’ve cultivated a sense of gratitude for whatever opportunity is presented, and an appreciation for that day.

I like to believe that I ‘practice’ photography, that with my camera-in-hand, I enter a place of surrender and acceptance. Never controlling or contriving or manipulating a situation to suit my imaginary needs. This is what ‘is’. Today. This moment will never happen in quite the same way ever again.  Simply observing and capturing ‘it’ as ‘it’ presents itself before me, is what it is all about for me.

It’s a ‘practice’ that is – at times – as much about looking inwards as it is about looking out at the world. It passes through me. It’s not something that is tangible or teachable or easy to explain. It’s something that is felt somewhere deep within and beneath my core. It’s at the moment of perfect synchronicity – that I cock and click my shutter’s lens. That instant I’ve then captured and recorded for all of eternity and longer than that.

Photography challenges me. It pushes me to change and grow…to adapt…to learn new computer languages and skills…to keep on top of this ever evolving world of technology. It provides me an opportunity to play..to go out in the world and have fun with my camera. To create humor in a humorless situation…or to ‘render’ my world differently from the one in which I live. By shifting my perspective and changing my point-of-view..I can transform a scene from one to another.

There are all sorts of other reasons to have chosen to embrace this ‘craft’..and not some other. These – that I’ve mentioned –  are just a few.

Thank-you for asking…for joining me here in my answer. This too has been one other exercise in exploring what photography is all about.

For me.

Marcie Scudder lives and photographs (mostly) in the Boston area. She publishes a daily photograph on her website Daily Practice.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.

Comments

  1. Excellent insight, Marcie. You’ve articulated so very well what draws me personally to photography. And thanks to Bo, I’ve now discovered your website and photos. Will be checking it out often.

  2. Love the photo of the ducks. We’ve lost a few domesticated ducks given that they can’t fly like their wild brethren. But on the notion of photography as practice, my blog partner has a daily photography practice. It does ground one, open to each moment, to detail. It’s a wonderful way to wake up. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Bo Mackison says:

    I love your answer, Marcie – it really resonates with s much of why I also take photograhs on a daily basis. I also see photography as a teacher, always encouraging me to find out the answer, or at least a bit of the answer, to question after question. Thanks, Marcie for joining Seeded Earth today. I loved reading about your perspective on “Why Photography?”

  4. seeing life through your lens is such a treat..i have not ever heard the bird story..so very sad..but it helped you “FLY”

  5. This is why you’re an inspiration to me, Marcie, and I mean that sincerely. Because I use my camera so much for traveling, and therefore need to snap away quickly before moving on to the next thing/place, I’m not nearly as centered as you are. But I do have those moments when I am lost in time and can hear my own heart beat. So maybe I’m closer than I think to experiencing your ‘practice.’ I hope so. When home, maybe I can start going to familiar spots and just sit there with camera in hand to see if there is inspiration in those moments, too. I’m guessing so!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      You make a good point, Ginnie. There really is a big difference in photographing while traveling and photographing as a meditative practice. I do both, and love doing both. But I think the times I can sit peacefully or walk silently in my garden, and then capture a special photo, those photos mean the most to me.

  6. thank you for expressing that for me, Marcie lol just joking… actually i go in fits and starts, and i have wanted a new camera for so long now that i haven’t really shot much, and was going over my old folders for stuff i didn’t process the first time… when it’s time for a new camera i feel THAT inside, and can’t abide by my old equipment… then i get the new camera and it lights the fire again 🙂

  7. Anna Surface says:

    Well expressed, Marcie, and I agree and resonate. Photography… the why… has many layers from within to without. I enjoyed your writing as well as viewing your photos at your website and discovering Vision and Verb in which I linked over at my 365 photography blog.

  8. it is my belief that you photograph, because you love life. you appreciate all its tender moments, and you want to make certain you are there to capture them. i think you understand that photography doesn’t have a permanence as it once might have, and i get the sense that living in this moment with gratitude for beauty motivates your practice. at least that is what i that when i read your explanation.

    thank you for your inspiration and your beautiful work.

  9. What a wonderful reason to take photographs, Marcie. Thanks for the beautiful encouragement as well as the deep understanding of the importance of the world immediately around us.

  10. Marcie, you started out like me, with a Kodak instamatic camera… my goodness, I was in heaven when I got it for my 10th or 11th birthday! Square, black and white, white frame.
    You’ve come a long way. And you are such an inspiration, and as Ginnie said, so centered.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Carola, you’ve given me another idea. It would be interesting to do another series on “first cameras” — I myself started with a Brownie camera, a treasured gift from my grandmother.

  11. Beautifully said/written, Marcie. So much of what you wrote applies to me as well. Your daily walks on the same path are similar to my daily walks around the pond. I like the idea of thinking of it as “practice.”

  12. There is truth and beauty in these words…….and in the image.

  13. Marcie: You’ve done an excellent job of describing the many reasons you, and others, photograph. I resonate with all of it, but especially with this: “It acts as a quiet meditation. When looking thru my camera’s lens..the world stops. There is calm centered peace within.” YES!!!

  14. Bo Mackison says:

    Thanks, Marcie, for joining in on the fun. You wrote an inspiring piece, think you inspired quite a few readers too. Bravo!

  15. She’s right: photography really does make you see the world more intensely. Even though I’m naturally a detailed observer, photography makes me look for the especially interesting stuff in a scene.

  16. Thanks for bringing the word “instamatic” back to me. I agree that one of the best things about being a photographer is that it makes us pay attention like we wouldn’t otherwise.

  17. Photography focuses and grounds me, too. And just like you wrote, it helps me to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Such a beautiful form of meditation. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words about photography.

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