Picture this. It is full moon and everything is bathed in a silver light. Lying on your back, you gaze upwards while, in a single long exposure, your camera patiently records the stars as they trace their arc across the night sky. You don’t have to do a thing. You can simply close your eyes and find yourself floating between heaven and earth.
This is slow photography, something I have little experience of, because professionally I must work with quick decisions and instant reflex reactions. Yet secretly I long to bring time to a standstill and focus on the movements of the cosmos.
Christine Valters Paintner’s “Eyes of the Heart” is full of extraordinary insights and exercises that encourage and nurture the budding slow photographer. Here, you will discover that you “receive” photos rather than take them, that you will wait for what “shimmers” and find, as I did, that your “camera isn’t just a tool, it’s a portal”.
When I practised Christine’s meditative exercises, I mostly left my cameras at home because I knew that I would find it hard to curb my need to achieve. Many of these exercises take the form of a contemplative walk where you focus on your breathing and regard your fellow beings with compassion. For me, it was as if I had become invisible, which wasn’t a bad thing. For to my astonishment, I was overwhelmed by waves of love for my fellow beings: the Japanese beauty whose porcelain face was perfectly lit by a fortuitous ray of sunshine; the crazy lady with the noble greyhound whose paws scarcely touched the ground. And there were countless others.
But there was one exercise that I swore I would avoid at all costs: a contemplative walk in search of self-portraits that were either literal or symbolic reflections of the photographer herself. Me. That’s impossible because, overtly at least, my work focuses on what’s out there rather than on what’s me.
During this walk, the weather was about as grim as my mood. I had my camera with me but wasn’t planning on using it. But then it happened and suddenly I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. Shimmering and undeniable. It is what I want, and what we all desire and need to soothe this troubled world, the shattered vessel of the human condition. Love,only love.