By BlipCommunity

Photography as Zen

Meet Mike (aka mmnaylor) for whom photography has become a piece of her everyday for almost 9 years now. “It’s not always so easy,” she says, “as most of us who do this daily know.  But each day I am hopeful that something will appear, an idea will feel interesting or the everyday satisfies my eye.” 
Mike is no stranger to every day commitment: six years ago, she also set out to learn to play the cello.  “It’s very similar,” she remarks, “as each day I hope that this is the session that will yield even a few lovely notes.  With the cello I had no idea what I was getting into!” 
A long time record of memories
Photography comes far more naturally for her, however.  Her first camera was a birthday gift at age 12 - and coincidentally her Girl Scout Troop went off to NY City for a visit that year.  In those early days, a camera was for trips and in college, it became a way to catch silly antics and life on campus. Mike’s family was very much into photographic records and she has both parents’ photos from WWII in Italy - as well as other times from their years growing up. “It’s fascinating to have these and a record of life in previous decades,” she comments.  “And when my daughter joined me, lots of kiddo photos, a treasure of course.”
Blipfoto entered her life in 2010 when she and her husband Tom spent about a month in southern France to care-take a friend’s home there – a task she sums up as “essentially keeping plants alive in hot August.”  Blipper NanaK, a neighbor and friend, suggested she join Blipfoto to have a place to put up photos of her time there.  And she was hooked.  “Photos had long been an integral step in the paintings I made for a number of years. I never worked from a photograph but they helped me “mess” around with what I might be trying to do.  BUT I closed my studio three years ago, and now it is the photograph each day for Blip - nothing to store and plenty involving, and I was spread too thin with cello daily practice!  It was the right step for me.”
Rather than walk a dog, I walk my camera
Mike says that the challenge for her is to not become jaded and dismissive of an image: “I feel like I have photographed about every subject there is by now, and often feel I have no idea of what I am doing.  I do not work from themes, or prompts although there are themes I come back to off and on with no intention, the kind of image that surfaces that day - “grounded” for example or “chairs” or “candid”.  I work from being out and letting my eyes wander as they do. Walking is best and I do a fair amount of it.  Rather than walk a dog, I walk my camera.” She’s tried to pursue a subject over time, but admits this just does not work: for her, every day is a fresh start.  She does prefer mono or extremely quiet colors; desaturation is a step she almost always takes if she puts up a color photograph: “I like the clarity of the range of black to white very much.”  
She does not ever ask people for photos when she is on the street: “if I can get one of a human that feels fresh and not intrusive, fine.  But that is hard.” She follows the light, as the best source for looking at the world -- light and shadow.  She often turns the camera to mono so that when she plays back results, she sees mono. “I know I could shoot in both,” she adds, “but I do not bother.” 
Her photo library is slim: “I keep maybe two a day, and take twenty to fifty and more every day - I just delete, delete, delete.  I know I will never look at them again, and I know no one else will either.  I keep the ones of family and friends - for me those are few and far between, the images, I mean! For me, photography is primarily and enjoyably a kind of Zen thing - look, compose (or not!), and move on. It is a moment witnessed - and onto the next one.”
Advice for other Blippers?
“To keep going,” she says, “you have to find your own ‘why’ of doing it.”  She remarks that some people seem to make and manage many comments, which is simply overwhelming for her. “So therefore,” she advises, “be mindful of the ‘following’ check mark - none of us can look very deeply at all the images we would like to.  Sometimes, people I do not follow will write comments.  I have felt guilty if I do not respond in kind, but I figure we are all aware there is only so much time to devote to a website and the virtual world.  I hope people know that is all that it is.”
She knows that many people use Blipfoto as a journal. She acknowledges she doesn’t “because I do not care to write much, and also for me, it is more a visual narrative.  I know I can look at images going way back, and I can be there again -- even a sidewalk or street with interesting light on it.  Whatever is interesting to you is what you have to do.”  
Valuing the Blip family
Mike has a small Blip “family” that she has followed for years. She has met in person a few of these friends who live far from her. “I am in Seattle,” she says, “and they are in England or France and I met them on a visit in 2015.  It is a bit ridiculous that the blip friends I have here in the US are the people I have not met in person.  But then, I am really not a traveler.”  She mentions wistfully the loss of some of the revered regular friends who have quit Blip and she still thinks about them and misses their daily image.  “Blip is weird,” she states, “it really is what I look at first in the morning and even just before bed.  Who’d have thought?”
She has a lot of appreciation for the good people on Blipfoto.  “The world feels chaotic,” she concludes, “and although this has always been the case, we were able to be more ignorant without a constant flow of information and story of mayhem.  Often I retreat to blip for a bit of time with good caring people, truly an oasis.  Thank you both members and coordinators.”
Cover photo by Mike: “Home”
Remarks collected by Michele (aka Alsacienne)

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