Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cental Asia Return

Vivian and I are on the verge of our spring 2010 trip to Central Asia. We leave in two and a half weeks. We don't have any visas, yet, but we've got tickets. The problem is that the airline won't let you on the plane unless you have a visa for where you are landing. No problem, maybe.

The above picture of a classroom in the Tajikistan Pamirs is from 2009. What kind of pictures will I be looking for on this trip? Because Vivian spends time almost every day teaching teachers, I'll continue to picture education. It is consistently amazing to see the intelligence and grace of the teachers and students in Central Asia. They are teaching and learning in the midst of often broke down conditions.

Ultimately, my photography is about whatever happens to be in front of me. I know it is not a very sophisticated approach to documenting the world. It is really a way of documenting my own state of well being. Years of listening to jazz is a possible inspiration for this approach. In jazz, the song, or head, is the starting point for the musician to work around. S/He usually plays the tune once through and then lets inspiration flow. For me, the city or town offers the basic structure for possible visual riffs or explorations.

I've been a meditator since my early 20s. My kind of photography relates to the experience of sitting. I start with whatever watchfulness I can muster. It is similar to walking out onto the street, or into a space. While sitting, I observe whatever is going on in my mind and body. It's just like being a photo eye on the world. I never know what is about to envelope me. I only know what I am seeing at the moment. Just like meditation, there are times when I come back to the present moment and realize I've just spent a nonspecific stretch of time lost in thought, or, as in photography, engrossed in a fleeting situation in the world. It's all OK.

Well, maybe it isn't. Meditating is not a results oriented experience. I let go of achieving something with sitting practice awhile ago. I realize that, at the very least, meditating keeps me out of trouble for the time I am just sitting.

Photography is results oriented. Our attic is filled with my pictures. On this trip I want to let go of the impulse to collect a little pile of picture treasures. I'll let my camera simply note the world as it passes by. The pictures can be the residue of my experience of the world. Dodrup Chen Rimpoche, a Tibetan teacher who has been very important to me, once said, "the archer doesn't have to proclaim that he has hit the target. Everyone can see that he has hit the target."

Pass me another arrow, please.

Gymnasium floor, Russia, 2009