Handling Grief by Making
Your Own Contemplative Photos
I first heard the term “contemplative photography” from a professor in my conflict transformation graduate program. I was immediately drawn to the idea and eventually did any independent study with him on the topic. It became a real help to me in handling grief emotions.
This type of photography focuses on the emotions a photo stirs within you. It is about your way of seeing the world. As you look at a scene or image, you take time to reflect and notice what the image is touching within you. What is drawing you? What feelings are being stirred?
If you have first done some of the reflection exercises that are offered on the main photography page, it will help you get the idea of how to reflect with your own images.
The professor who I studied with is Howard Zehr. You may want to get a copy of his book The Little Book Of Contemplative Photography You can also see some of his beautiful images at his website (opens a new browser window)
Tell Your Story without Words
Another book that I really enjoy is a Jan Phillips' book God Is at Eye Level: Photography as a Healing Art. In it she tells the story of how she got started in photography. She had been part of a convent for several years and was asked to leave. After she left, she was forbidden to write letters to her friends at the convent. So for her best friend's birthday, she decided to make a scrapbook of images that reflected her spiritual and emotional journey since leaving the convent.
In one exercise in the book, Phillips invites her reader to imagine that they too are not allowed words to communicate emotions. She suggests making images with your camera that convey your feelings.
Making books of photos that reflect my emotions is something, I too, did over the years of my grief journey. Handling grief is never easy, but simply wondering around the backyard with my camera can provide new perspective. If you look at my photos, you will see that I love to make images in nature. Life and death exist side-by-side in nature and somehow that juxtaposition calms me. It helps me trust that there is order in the universe even when my own world doesn't look orderly.
Making your own photo book can be as easy as pasting your developed photos into a journal book and writing your reflections. If you enjoy making digital images, it is easy to make digital books through any number of online companies. Check out My Memories Suite. This is the one program that lets you print your pages right from your home computer. Then if you want to turn it into a professional bound book later, you can. I love to make books with two-page spreads, one of my photos on the left and my journal reflections on the right.
Keep checking back. As I update this site, I hope to add some samples and further ideas.
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