Mindful photography

During the dislocation of last year, I instinctively started solo walks around my neighbourhood taking photos of incidental moments. I found these walks with my camera to be valuable on several levels; walking gave me an excuse to go outside while exploring my local area gathering creative inspiration.

Walking, particularly in nature is often linked to the creative process. Author Charlotte Wood [1] describes walking as:

“It is a useful trick: silent walking allows the mind to empty without the paralysing fear of stillness. A letting-go takes place. An easy, featherweight attention must be paid to the material world of the kerb, the footpath, the pedestrian crossing, which then allows the ethereal, invented world to expand inside the mind.” (Wood, C., 2021, p.18)

Not surprisingly Julia Cameron author of The Artists Way includes walking as a key creative tool [2]. But, it was only after starting these quiet photography walks that I stumbled across the term “mindful photography” [3], also known as “Zen photography” [4]. 

Mindful photography

So, what exactly is mindful photography? To find out I spoke with the mindful photographer, Margaret Soraya [5] from her solo travels around the Hebrides islands. In her image making process Margaret incorporates solitude in nature where she is drawn to the sea and wild landscapes.

Listen to Margaret’s interview:

Margaret finds that being in nature supports her creativity and builds a sense of wellbeing saying:

“We’re living in a time where people are much more indoors and it’s more on screens and connected, so I think that we just forget the simple things like going out for a walk is so good for your mental wellbeing.”

During the pandemic last year Margaret saw people reaching for creativity, as people were asking how to get through this time, and mindful photography became newfound support. Mindful photography can be practised just by walking down the local street and looking closely at your surroundings.

Both Photos by Alex Perri on Unsplash


“You going to photograph these leaves, but you take it slowly. You don’t just kind of snap, snap, and then run off, you take it slow. You look at your camera settings, you consider the light. You’re starting to think, well, you’re watching for the beauty, just in that tree, you know, it can be really, really simple.”

The good news is you don’t need expensive camera equipment to get started! Margaret is an advocate of using mobile phone cameras, as this helps us not to get caught up in the technical aspects ­– and just have fun with photography. Mindful photography programs such as Margaret’s online group Creative Haven [6] can help us to reconnect with ourselves and tap into our innate creativity. 

Author: Kerry Turnbull (Director, Engage Arts)

Feature image: Photo by Gustavo Zambelli on Unsplash

This series covers topics related to creativity and wellbeing, we acknowledge that while creativity is beneficial mental well-being is a complex issue. If this content raises issues for you, please connect with support. A list of Australian support services is provided below.

SUPPORT SERVICES

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Headspace: 1800 650 850
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

REFERENCES

1.         Wood, C., The Luminous Solution. 2021: Allen & Unwin.

2.         Cameron, J. Why Walk? 2013  11/10/2021]; Available from: https://juliacameronlive.com/2013/11/02/why-walk/.

3.         Davey, R. Look Again. 2021  16/09/2021]; Available from: https://www.look-again.org.

4.         Ulrich, D., Zen Camera, Creative Awakening with a Daily Practice in Photography. 2018: Random House US.

5.         Soraya, M. Quiet Landscapes Fine Art by Margaret Soraya. 2021  10.11.2021]; Available from: https://www.margaretsoraya.com/.

6.         Soraya;, M. Creative Haven. 2021  11/10/2021]; Available from: https://creative-haven.newzenler.com.

Colour and creativity

Feature image: Joanna Pinkiewicz, Shaded Pools, 2021.

Joanna Pinkiewicz is a Tasmanian-based artist and designer. Joanna has a deep understanding and experience of colour and works as a fine artist, colour consultant, and colour theory educator. Trained as a scenic artist Joanna has extensive commercial and fine art experience over which time she had developed her relationship with colour using it as a medium for expression.

While we recognise that colour has an emotional impact our reactions to it can be complex, based on the interplay of symbolic and unconscious associations as well personal and cultural conditions [1]. In conversation with Joanna, she observes how some colours, like yellow, tend to make us feel happy, whereas more muted tones can make for a calm and contemplative mood. Joanna says:

“Yellow being one of my earliest favourite colours, and strongly associated with childhood, and that’s not terribly uncommon…a lot of children are attracted to yellow, it’s bright and happy. But it’s symbolically also related to intelligence and development and growth.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview:

Symbolism and colour

Joanna is interested in the alternative colour theory of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe which embodies the viewers’ perception of colour. In her ongoing colour research, she observes how visitors respond to paintings and moves them around to test the lighting conditions in which colours work best.

Joanna Pinkiewicz, Alchemy of Becoming, 2021.

As an abstract artist, Joanna also explores symbols to open a “dialogue with the unknown” [2]. Her new body of work, Spirit of Abstraction [3] uses a vocabulary of symbols that connect to themes of intelligence, infinity, space, and creation and trace their origins back to old European cultures. Joanna states that:

The reduction of metaphysical concepts into symbols is a powerful cultural magic. Many such symbols, such as the lozenge or the circle emerged across cultures and across the globe and survived for thousands of years of colonisation and co-option. It is possible, that the survival has been dependent on the process of reduction and the symbols still hold its original meaning and power.”

Joanna Pinkiewicz, Construction of Space, 2021.
Connecting with colour

While colour and symbols can tap into hidden meaning, we have seen that during the pandemic people need tangible ways to create and connect. As a teacher Joanna noticed that:

“There is that renewed interest in people wanting to do something creative and wanting to connect…I think it’s kind of fundamental to who we are, even if we’re not consciously aware to have something that is our way from our responsibilities away from our work. Something that gives us joy, something that we can feel present or grounded, or we are exploring still, that we can grow with.

Colour classes are a good entry point for students to build their skills, mixing and blending colours abstractly. Joanna often teaches women who come back to study but don’t have a lot of time for themselves. As a teacher she finds that “one of the most important things is to create a space where people want to come to….that is physical and also psychological.”

Colour is complex, it can influence how we feel and dipping into the study of colour can be a rewarding creative process. Artists like Joanna Pinkiewicz use their knowledge and experience working with colour to open a dialogue with the viewer. I look forward to seeing Joanna’s vibrant works for the, Spirit of Abstraction exhibition at the Salamanca Arts Centre in January 2022.

Author: Kerry Turnbull (Director, Engage Arts)

Feature image: Joanna Pinkiewicz, Shaded Pools (detail), 2021. Watercolour on cotton rag. 62cm x 90cm

REFERENCES

1.         Haller, K. Dispelling the confusion over colour psychology. 2012  9/10/2021]; Available from: https://www.karenhaller.co.uk/blog/what-is-colour-psychology/.

2.         Pinkiewicz, J., Spirit of Abstraction exhibition catalogue. 2022: Tasmania.

3.         Salamanca Arts Centre. Spirit of Abstraction. 2021  13/10/2021]; Available from: https://www.salarts.org.au/event/spirit-of-abstraction/.

Creativity and wellbeing

The pandemic has been a time of change and disruption and the arts and cultural sector has been severely impacted. At the same time, we can see the valuable role creativity has on our wellbeing. This period has prompted me to delve into the topic of creativity, considering its contribution to wellbeing and how to cultivate creativity in everyday life. I have drawn on existing research, held conversations with creative practitioners, and picked up a paintbrush. The result is a series of articles and accompanying interviews complied for my studies in Multiplatform Storytelling at The University of Tasmania, I hope that it provides food for thought and is a useful resource for anyone wanting to chart a creative path.

Defining creativity

Creativity is a broad topic and multiple definitions exist. While contested creativity is often broadly categorised as “Big C” and “little c” [2]. Put simply, “Big C” is the type of creativity we associate with highly skilled creatively talented individuals and “little c” the intrinsic creativity that we all possess. Psychologist and author, Ruth Richards [3] describes this as “everyday creativity”:

“Everyday creativity is identified with two criteria only: originality and meaningfulness—it is new, and it is understandable. Beyond that, any activity can qualify. Whether we are landscaping the yard, fixing the car, instructing our child, advising a friend, or making a gourmet dinner out of some bare leftovers, we can be invoking our everyday creativity.” (Richards, R., 2018, p.3)

The University of New South Wales Centre for Ideas [4] recently explored definitions of creativity in a series of interviews, in which Australian artist and filmmaker Lynette Wallworth described creativity as “being available to everyone” and linked to “the process of imagination”. 

Creativity and wellbeing

So, what then is the benefit of everyday creativity to those not in the arts. During the time of increased social isolation, The University of Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change carried out a survey [5] which found that 80 per cent of respondents described being creative as important to maintaining their wellbeing during the pandemic. Further, The Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative [6] is working across a suite of research themes with the aim of better understanding the links between creativity and wellbeing. In the United Kingdom and Canada, “social prescribing” [7] allows medical professionals to refer patients to a range of allied health services including creative and community programs.

Art Therapy

There is an existing body of knowledge on the positive effects of art available in the field of Art Therapy. While a distinction should be made between Art Therapy in a clinical setting and art as therapy there are overlapping benefits [8]. This interview with Art Therapist Laura Riddell [9] provides a window into her insights as an art therapist. Laura has provided counselling for over 25 years having worked with children on the autism spectrum and people living with mental health conditions.

Listen to Laura’s interview:

Laura notes that you don’t have to be an artist to benefit from being creative. In Art Therapy, art and visual expression are used as tools to assist in translating complex feelings, Laura says that “creativity can reveal choices that we were previously unaware of”, and colour, form, and materials like clay can be used to express feelings that we don’t have words to for.

When using art as a therapeutic tool Laura finds that an emphasises on the creative process, rather than the outcome is beneficial, saying:

“I think that’s the biggest thing to give yourself permission to do is not to worry about
the outcome, just to get started.”

Letting go of the need for perfection is important as it sets up a non-judgemental space. This is grounded in science, as when humans feel stressed our flight-fight-freeze response is heightened, rather we want to soothe and relax by engaging the parasympathetic nerve [10]. 

As well as being process-driven, setting clear frameworks can help clients navigate around internal roadblocks. Laura describes it as “…not getting people started on a blank piece of paper”. Starting with clear structures sets the safe framework allowing participants to visualise what they are setting out to do, which in turn opens a gateway for natural curiosity to take over. 

Creativity presents other benefits such as connection with others over a shared creative endeavour, connections that can help to build a sense of belonging in the world. While this had been curtailed during the pandemic community-based programs such as the Northern Beaches Secret Rocks [11] project which encourages community members to paint a rock with a message and leave it along a walking route to share with others, are activities that bring a sense of shared connection during challenging times.

Accessing our everyday creativity has benefits and research shows that creativity can help us to make sense of ourselves and our relationships with others. This reminds us of the valuable role visual artists, musicians, dancers, and creative practitioners of all types play in supporting a healthy society.

Author: Kerry Turnbull (Director, Engage Arts)

Feature image: Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

This series covers topics related to creativity and wellbeing, we acknowledge that while creativity is beneficial mental well-being is a complex issue. If this content raises issues for you, please connect with support. A list of Australian support services is provided below.

SUPPORT SERVICES

REFERENCES

1.         Runco, M., “Big C, Little c” Creativity as a False Dichotomy: Reality is not Categorical. Creativity Research Journal, 2014. 26(1): p. 131-132.

2.         Richards, R., Everyday Creativity and the Healthy Mind. [electronic resource] : Dynamic New Paths for Self and Society. 1st ed. 2018. ed. Palgrave Studies in Creativity and Culture. 2018: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

3.         UNSW Centre for Ideas, On Creativity, Lynette Wallworth with Sarah Dingle, UNSW, Editor. 2021.

4.         Lester, L. and R. Banham, Creativity, culture and the arts during COVID-19, in The Tasmania Project. 2020, University of Tasmania, Institute for Social Change: Tasmania.

5.         The University of Melbourne. Creativity and Wellbeing. 2021  21/08/2021]; Available from: https://research.unimelb.edu.au/research-at-melbourne/multidisciplinary-research/hallmark-research-initiatives/creativity-and-wellbeing.

6.         Larter. Social prescribing is coming to Australia. 2021  26/08/2021]; Available from: https://larter.com.au/social-prescribing/.

7.         Australia Council for the Arts, Arts and Wellbeing Forum. 2021.

8.         Art Therapy Resouces. Understanding Art Therapy vs Art As Therapy. 2020  2/11/21]; Available from: https://arttherapyresources.com.au/art-as-therapy/.

9.         Riddell, L. Exploring the magic of Being. 2013  8.11.2021]; Available from: http://laurariddell.com.

10.       Nall, R. Your Parasympathetic Nervous System Explained. 2020  9/10/21]; Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/parasympathetic-nervous-system.

11.       Northern Beaches Secret Rocks. Northern Beaches Secret Rocks #NBSR. 2021  8.11.2021]; Available from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1552698581430500/about.