“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
You will have noticed I like to dabble in photography philosophy. Yes, I like to think on the why’s before the how’s. The why’s simply interest me more, as I’ve found that the why is the most important factor in anything and everything we do.
The why’s of photography, to me, have always led to the how’s and I hope my ramblings will have opened up new insights for you, too, if you can bear to read to the end.
The quote above is something that popped up in my Newsfeed and it sparked the desire in me to share my thoughts on the topic, hopefully in a coherent enough manner.
Simplicity is all about elimination. Nothing in life is ever simple, but by eliminating certain elements that distract from the main topic, it is possible to get your message across more plainly.
If you are a photographer and have begun looking into the finer points of this craft, you will have noticed that nothing is more important than the fact that simplicity in composition is king (or queen).
I’ll also stick my neck out here and risk saying that simplicity extends to the gear you carry, the setup you use, and your approach to post-processing. The less you have to distract you, the less distracted your approach will be, and the clearer your voice will be.
Keep it simple and keep it real.
Ah, but this is the hardest virtue! Especially when you’re young and feel like the world and life are moving at a pace not suited to your desires and ambitions.
Somewhere along the lines of growing up and filling out your shoes and drying out behind your ears, patience kicks in. The time-frame of this happening isn’t the same for everyone, and that’s OK. Everyone can’t have the same journey.
It is worth remembering that patience not only brings you to your goal with peace of mind, but also opens you up to other possibilities along the way, which you will have noticed you probably missed before things slowed down and became less anxious.
Of course, there is probably not even need for me to say that patience is what gets the good shots. Patience is what every photographer worth their salt preaches, and by practicing patience, you will also learn to practice good photography.
Patience does not have to mean that you sit back and wait. Patience means working hard at your goal everyday and keeping your eyes open, patiently, for opportunities to unfold before you.
What this world lacks most and needs more than anything is compassion. This article is not meant to solve the world’s problems in one go, though.
I believe that compassion comes custom-built into every human that enters into this world. I’ve learned that from the tiny human I created, who not only has the most amazing capacity for compassion for himself, but also showcases a deep-rooted empathy for others – something which I did not need to teach him.
Perhaps, it could be argued, along the lines of growing up and surviving bumps and scratches on the road of life we forget how it is to feel compassion. We learn to grit our teeth and bear it and expect the same of others.
It is for this reason, perhaps, that compassion is so utterly compelling to us when we do encounter it. Perhaps it brings us back to our states of innocence before we learned to grow a thick skin.
In photography, compassion for your subjects opens you up to photographs full of meaning, whether you are working in wildlife and nature, or weddings and fashion, compassion is your best friend.
I’ve learned that it is also compassion, and what you find you easily empathise with, that will give you clues about what your personal style is.
It is therefore important to learn to feel and then to learn to read those feelings and analyse them. Feel your photo, feel your camera, feel the emotions, learn to read them, to connect with them, and to use them to tell a story. The story is ultimately important in so long as it respects and honours the element of compassion.
No work should exist without it being a sensitive tale either celebrating or evoking compassion. If you find you cannot find any passion within your heart for what you are doing, stop what you are doing immediately and think about what it is that plucks at the strings of your heart. And work towards that. You’ll find yourself in the blissful state of youthful creativity and eagerness in no time.