- Hide menu

Photography and the Power of Patience

Darkness In Flight Has digital photography made us lose touch with the art of patience? In a world that constantly pushes us to go faster and faster, what do we gain by slowing down? As a photographer, these are some of the questions that might come to mind when reading art historian Jennifer Roberts’ thoughtful article written for Harvard magazine.

She talks about how art students can learn a great deal from a painting through the process of deceleration – deliberately slowing down to notice all the delicate details – reflecting the pace that it took to create the painting. Instead of brief glances, her students are required to spend 3 hours at a museum looking at a painting – during which they have to note down their evolving observations. She argues that taking students out of their everyday environment also helps them to focus better.

In terms of photography, one might compare this with driving or walking through an area of natural beauty. Speeding by in a car, you might look and notice the general beauty of the area – but only on foot do you see the little details, the flowers, the smells and sounds of nature – how the light is falling on every feature. All of these allow us to more closely connect with our subject and to express what we feel. It’s this inner connection that allows us to go beyond a simple visual representation – to create personally and outwardly meaningful images.

“Just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it. Just because something is available instantly to vision does not mean that it is available instantly to consciousness.”

There was a time when photography forced us to slow down. Large and expensive equipment with limited rolls of film made the act of capturing an image a very deliberate process. The photographers of old had to plan and work in a way that ensured few – if any – exposures were wasted.

Today of course, digital photography affords us the luxury of travelling light and fast, shooting in bursts and capturing thousands of images a day. Photography no longer demands thoughtful patience, which makes the deliberate act of slowing down even more important.

“In the thousands of years of human history that predated our current moment of instantaneous communication, the very fabric of human understanding was woven to some extent out of delay, belatedness, waiting. All objects were made of slow time…there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive.”

As photographers, the world is our canvas – nature, people, and their constructs all hold their own fascinating intricate details that only patience and focus can reveal. Like Ms Roberts’ students, perhaps it’s time we slowed down too – to look less and see more.

Creative Commons Licence
The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.