The Art of Stillness
THE ART OF STILLNESS. If someone asked me today what was the most important skill I had to learn to become a successful photographer, I’d have to say: “The ability to be still.” It may sound silly, as there’s so much “doing” involved in creating a good image. But the longer I’m in this business, the more I see how imperative it is to honor stillness as part of the creative process - both in the field, while on a shoot, and back at the studio, while in post-production. It’s been a decade-long skill for me to learn, as until recently I’ve always felt that I had to lean hard into my work to accomplish anything; that the only way to realize my vision was to chisel away at it with all my might. And yes, that’s still required, of course, but just not all the time. What I see now is that I have to build pockets of stillness into my work - not to mention my life - as well.
It’s a funny thing. I hammer away at the image, and then at some point I walk away and I stop and I breath, and somehow just by being still and NOT doing my job, I’m doing my job. Pico Iyer in his book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures In Going Nowhere, wrote that “going nowhere isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see it more clearly and love it more deeply.” I find that to be absolutely true, and nowhere was it more true for me than in creating this image. The shoot itself was straightforward and joyous. (How could it not be? Look at this place?) Stitching it together, however, was a completely different matter. I had to let the work take care of me, as Kiki Smith, a painter, once said. “You let go of your own ideas and let the work go where it needs to go. And that’s sometimes very uncomfortable. One learns to linger in discontent and not be judgmental, but have faith.” I love that. Faith. Let go of the reins and let the work go where it needs to go.
Anyway, thank you for enduring my blathering. The image, by the way, was shot at Peyto Lake, Alberta. My friend, Bob Ranew, stands on top of a 1995 Defender 110. Love that thing.