Head – Heart – Hand

I am reading (and re-reading) the article Rigor and Surrender by Bruce Barlow in LensWork #77. An interesting piece and a good self sanity check, or at least for me.

My immediate take away deals with the point he makes about a creative person who needs to be aware of three things, their head, their heart and their hand, and the balance of the three. Barlow points to Rudolf Steiner and his Waldorf education as his inspiration.

The hand is the easiest for me; it is about knowing your craft. To have the skills to accomplish what you are tying to create. My ‘hand’ is now challenaged by what ever version of Photoshop is out, but the skills of making a photograph with either a digital or film camera is not one of my usual problems. Sometimes I need to remember what I forgot, such as the mirror-up with the Hasselblad recently, but overall, the skills of the camera are not my issue.

The next thing is the head, understanding the purpurse or reason for taking the photograph in the first place. I am challenged with being able to verbalize my thoughts and thinking on many occasions. But nevertheless, I usually have a clear idea of what it is that I actually want to photograph. Looking back at my China photographs, I find that I usually took only one photograph of many things that I was interested in. The immediate feedback of the digital camera (craft) probably had a lot to do with it. But the memory of that one place is usually tied directly to the photograph I made. Not many second thoughts about oh-oh, I should of… So far the head seems to be functioning fine;- )

I’ve also read and worked through the excercises of Betty Edwards book Drawing the Right Side of the Brain. I agree that the ability to silence the left side of the brain, the analytical & verbal, and tap into the right side, the holistical, can help me find a rhythm and allows the flow to occur. Not an easy task at times, but practice does help!

The heart is the emotional connection to the photograph I make. This is where perhaps I get into trouble, my weakest link. Understanding my emotional response as to why I took this photograph or why the image lingers in my thoughts is more difficult for me. But I do make photographs that make an emotional connection within me. I am not always sure at the time that I am photographing that I am using my heart. I get a little too head-strong, e.g. analytical about what is that I see and the things going on.

I do realize that I may not call it head when I am in a photography “zone”, that place where I am not entirely (head) empty but I am open to the moment in a place I call “flow”. Where I just seem to react to what I see and I wonder “what was that all about?” Then upon review a little more later, I start to understand what triggered my emotional response.

As Barlow states; “Heart emains the mystery I experience in photography. I think that the heart manifests itself when we can surrender“.

A good reminder about keeping a balance for both the artistic creations and the personal projects.

Best regards, Doug

BTW, the photograph above, a canal in JiaShan, was an emotional responsive photograph for me, as there was something about it that just drew me. It was not a photograph that directly related any of my series that I was working on, but there is just something about this composition, this landscape. It connects for me. So I photographed it. I guess I was just looking.


5 thoughts on “Head – Heart – Hand

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  1. This has long been one of my favorite books. While I am very much a heart person, I was a teacher and found this book an invaluable tool for helping actors to connect with the feeling place and trust the collaboration between heart and head.

    Doug, this is another of your exciting posts that reflects so beautifully one of those shifts in your work—each more fascinating than the one before. You always articulate these thoughts so clearly and succinctly. I eagerly look forward to seeing what your heart wants to bring.

    By the way, this isn’t meant to imply that there hasn’t been heart in previous images. There certainly has been. But, apparently a shift in balance is in the works.

  2. The Betty Edwards book for developing my drawings and paintings was like learning the zone system for photography. It helped build the foundation of ‘seeing’ what was actually in front of you.

    One take away from the Edwards book for photography is that when I am not sure about a photograph, I turn it upside down (to slightly disorient myself enough) to see the underlying design elements of the image.

  3. Thank you for the kind words! I was a Waldorf teacher, students are rarely consciously aware of the head/hands/heart thing, but teachers care about it a lot. It was a treat to be selected by LensWork for publication, and I hope to continue with some other ideas. But they need to give me a rest, or rather, give all of YOU a rest!

    Thanks again for the good review!


  4. Bruce, I felt the same way when Brooks accepted my project “In Passing” and subsquently published it in the last January-February issue (LensWork #74).

    Your article was enjoyable and provoking, to cause you to think and ask more questions of yourself and your creative work. nice.

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