FINDING AWE THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY
March – A Month to Relish in Awe
“For me, the reason why people go to a mountaintop or go to the edge of the ocean is to look at something larger than themselves. That feeling of awe, of going to a cathedral, it’s all about feeling lost in something bigger than oneself. To me, that’s the definition of spectacle.” – Diane Paulus
March is here and the joy of spring has arrived. Everything is growing, buds are bursting into life and leaves are unfolding. Millions of migrant birds are arriving and singing and the dawn chorus wakes our souls. Butterflies are starting to be seen and mammals are beginning to wake from their winter sleep.
March is a time of the year when the word ‘awe’ often comes to mind. Cool teenagers often use the word ‘awesome’ to describe people, things and situations that they perceive as being ‘cool’. Awe can be defined as an ‘overwhelming feeling of reverence, astonishment, admiration, fear, being immersed or mesmerised in something unexplainable produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful or the like’. Awe can be inspired through people we admire and respect as well as situations we experience and things in our surroundings like starry skies and deep blue oceans. Given that we have bright daylight again, longer days and the onset of spring, there seems little reason not to find awe somewhere in our beautiful surroundings as well as in the people around us.
So how can we relish in the powerful sense of awe throughout March and beyond. The use of photography comes to mind. With the abundance of digital and non-digital photography at our fingertips, it is easy to take photographs. However, how can we change the haphazard ‘point, shoot and share’ moment into something far more awe inspiring. How can we capture photographs that inspire us with awe, suspend us in a moment in time, make us catch our breath and preserve a hundredth of a second forever.
Why not try the following and see if this inspires a sense of awe in you:
- Choose a week in March when you take 9-12 ‘mental photographs’ (photographs in your mind’s eye) of people or things that make you feel a sense of awe (astonishment, wonder, amazement, surprise, admiration). The ‘mental photographs’ could be of people, places, trees, flowers, plants, the sea, pebbles, objects, pets, insects, mammals, souvenirs and so on.
- Instead of simply pointing the camera and taking a photograph, try stopping, pausing, observing, framing, focussing and then capturing the moment in your mind’s eye. Appreciate all the visual elements of what you notice such as colour, lines, shapes, textures, light and shadows. Think about your photograph and what it is you want to enjoy for the moment and then hold it in your memory bank. For example, it does not have to be the whole tree but perhaps a tiny part of the bark with all the contours and textures that go with it. It does not have to be a full length portrait of a person but perhaps just their eyes or just their hands.
- Once you have collected all of your photographs, take time to visualise them again in your mind and reflect on each one. For each photograph, write down a response to the following question: “What does this photograph represent to me and how does it inspire awe in me?”
- Then ask yourself “Why is this photograph meaningful to me and what positive emotions does it evoke in me?”
- A week later, see if you can visualise your photographs again, enjoy the moment that you took them and relish in that feeling. See if that takes you back to your feeling of awe and perhaps takes your breath away for a moment in time.
“We gazed dreamily at the Milky Way and once in a while caught some shooting stars. Times like those gave me the opportunity to wonder and ask all those very basic questions. That sense of awe for the heavens started there.” Kalpana Chawla