A few years ago, I bought an instant camera as an impulse buy. A deeply discounted display model of the Fujifilm Instax Mini 50s beckoned to me, and I bought it without a second thought. A few failed instant photos later, this camera was relegated to storage, trumped by my Canon Rebel DSLR.
Earlier this year, I decided to give instant photography another chance, and retrieved the Fujifilm Instax from storage.
With this simple action I have begun to practice mindfulness in photography.
Before I begin to describe how mindfulness can affect photography, I will first define it. A quick Google search yields:
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
The concept of mindfulness can actually be traced to the Buddhist tradition. In this post, however, I will use the simple definition of mindfulness as the awareness of the present moment with all the sensations, feelings and thoughts felt in that moment.
Next, I also need to outline how instant photography differs from digital photography. Digital photography in the present day has catered to a wide audience, from the point-and-shooters, to the cellphone selfies and the DSLR junkies. The technology used in digital photography generally helps users by adjusting focus, light levels, colours, even red-eye removal. Even if a photo doesn’t really turn out, the users can simply take another, or several hundred others! In addition, post-photo work via photo editing software can get breathtaking results.
To take a (good) instant photo, you must forget the digital world altogether. Things like light levels and framing, if not done correctly, cannot be altered later.
You might be wondering now what all this has to do with mindfulness! It’s simple: because the photos are “what you see is what you get”, I have to spend a lot of time framing a photo, checking light levels and generally really exploring different angles before I can take it. I also have to keep in mind that each photo costs $1+! And even after all that work, the photo may not be perfect – which is okay!
By spending all this time thinking about my photo (the time spent can range from 5-10 minutes), I shut out most of the world around me. My thoughts about the past or the future dissolve from my mind and I can focus on what I see through my viewfinder:
There are a few things I do think about when looking through this viewfinder:
- Does this photo speak to me?
- Does this framing tell a story?
- Will the colours on the developed product capture what I see?
By thinking about the answers to the questions above I feel that I enter a state of mindfulness. I have discovered the wonderful feeling of living in, and being aware of, the present moment by simply taking instant photos.
I find this practice of mindfulness extremely therapeutic. In my career as a Data Scientist, I use my mind very heavily during the day to solve many problems and puzzles. I have been able to use this technique to quiet my mind and bring relaxation to my life.
In this blog I will explore my mindful state through instant photos. I hope you can join me on this journey.