I use the process three or more times before I photograph something challenging or important, and while on a photo excursion. Because it's relatively simple, it is easy to be disciplined in doing it. Each session begins with a clearly stated goal, and lasts at least twenty minutes, but, because it's so enjoyable, often more than an hour. To intensify the emotions I create when I declare my goals, feel my desire for fulfillment, and visualize my results, I also listen to music when I can, ideally through headphones. I consistently feel joy and pleasure strong enough to bring tears to my eyes. I want to project that exhilaration into the future when I am actually making a photograph.
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My two equally important goals are to: 1) have my specific desires fulfilled in physical life, and 2) completely enjoy this mentally creative process. The essence of the experience is concentrating on and repeating the imagined results. I use either clear mental imagery or verbal imagery, depending on my impulse or mental state. Creating and sustaining a strong desire for fulfillment and declaring that I want ease in obtaining the results are also important. Below is a description of the steps I follow. Even though it's a preconceived experience, I always encourage and welcome spontaneous insights and additions.
Create intentions and goals: First I take a few minutes to get a clear sense of what I want for me and for my eventual audience. For me, it is usually creating unique and outstanding images of a location, with high emotional content and a strong sense of place, and I want this to happen easily, efficiently, and enjoyably. I want viewers to feel that they are in the scene, or want to be. If I'm documenting the violence that had been done to the land, I want them to emotionally experience some of the loss, sad-ness, and anger that I felt and to be motivated to act pos-itively to change what they are seeing.
Next, I spend considerable time seeing myself being strongly attracted to the scenes I will photograph. I imagine myself being in co-respondence (two or more consciousnesses, on some level, communicating with each other) with the energy and Spirit of the area. I ask that the "place" reveal to me a beautiful essence that will deeply and emotionally touch me and those who will see my work.
Inspiration (or discovery): I envision myself looking down on the landscape and seeing specific brilliant spots of energized silver light at the locations where I will find my point of view for making a photograph. Then I see myself actually in the scene, feeling the impulse to move toward the silver energy, and trusting and acting on that impulse until I feel myself inside the spots.
Technique: I see myself looking at the scene through the camera, enjoying composing the image and feeling confident about the technical and esthetic decisions and choices I make. Then I see myself being pleased when I finally make the exposure(s).
Artistic results: I imagine myself happily looking at the developed film on the light table. I thank my "past" self for creating this particular present time of satisfaction and fulfillment and remember to feel a sense of pride in my talent and what I have created. Basically, I acknowledge the validity of the visualization process, and I acknowledge myself as a creative individual, operating on different levels, for fulfillment. I always take pleasure in expressing gratitude for the place that showed me its beauty or pain.
Audience: I see myself being excited about the enthusiastic responses to my photographs, then expressing sincere gratitude for the comments and praise I am receiving, and really experiencing the pleasure others feel in complimenting me.
Money and recognition: I see people willingly paying what I ask for my work; that is, recognizing its value and knowing it will give them ongoing pleasure. I see them telling other people about me and my work, and those other people also purchasing images from me. I may also see myself receiving recognition when that is appropriate.
At the close of visualization, I tell myself that I may find surprises and interesting new twists and turns as I look for my photographs. Occasionally, I have stated a strong desire to approach the photographic process from a different or new perspective, which has led to my growth as a photographer. I always leave room for and encourage spontaneity and the joy of discovery.
I started using this method eight years ago when I had an important environmental assignment that felt like a nightmare waiting to paralyze me. Using visualization to calm myself and restore my confidence, I spontaneously included seeing myself finding powerful images of what I needed. Later I was clearly conscious of being drawn to places that I had intended not to visit because I had determined that nothing significant was there. Contrary to what my intellect told me, though, I discovered scenes to photograph that produced excellent images that powerfully communicated what was being done to the land. Since then I have continued refining the technique.
Visualization works consistently and reliably for me, and I trust it because it nearly always gives me more than I ask for. I believe it can help any artist find inspiration. Anyone willing to accept the possibility that it works and excited about its challenge and rewards will have success. Patience and persistence is crucial.
Although I cannot absolutely (and don't want to) control the inspiration phenomenon, I enjoy using the power of my mind to consistently bring discovery and inspiration and artistic fulfillment into my life. Trust in my self and my process, and patience, opens my intuitive senses, and leads me, either physically or mentally, to the personal realms and mysteries that are meant for me to discover and explore. More than magic, it is natural to us all!