After studying Tai Chi for the past 25 years, I’ve learned a few things about form, about discipline — and also about learning itself.
Specifically, I’ve learned that there is always more to learn. And I’ve learned that the deeper I go, the more subtle my learnings become.
This has been true of my education in photography as well.
A Never-Ending Journey
As a child, the first photography skill I learned was to expose and develop film. Initially, just getting a printable image was satisfactory. But then I wanted to master the intricacies of printing, such as brightness, contrast, shadow, detail and so forth.
Without realizing it, I had begun a journey that would continue for more than 40 years.
Today, I don’t think as much about the fundamentals; they’ve become second nature. I concentrate most on what is happening in my frame.
“Is it interesting?” I ask myself.
I know what interests me as a photographer, and I know how to take a good picture. But how do I avoid becoming a broken record with my subject matter and my approach to it? How do I maintain my creativity and keep finding new things to say?
That is the ultimate Tai Chi for photographers. It challenges us every day, and in doing so offers us infinite opportunities for learning.
Find Creative Life at the Cemetery
Recently, I became interested in photographing cemeteries in Vermont. There was something about the stillness and solitude of these places that got my attention.
My first attempts were quite ordinary, but I kept at it. At first I was only interested in the cemeteries themselves, but after a while the individual monuments drew my attention. Then I graduated to focusing on the writing on the monuments, or the mold on individual headstones.
Time of day also became a factor. I found that shooting at twilight gave the images a moodier, more somber quality that I liked.
I’m now exploring muting colors in the images, making photographs at night, and touring cemeteries in other parts of the country as well as Europe. Why stop with Vermont?
With photography, there is always another layer to strip away. There is always another place to go.
Photo © David Saxe