christmas still life

There is often a fine convergence of information landing in my Inbox.

From my friend Christine of Freehand Impressions this query arrived –

I think we are both over thinking this artistic journey.... Have you ever done Gretchen Rubin’s personality test for tendencies? Check it out and see what you come up as.... then let me know, and I’ll tell you what I am if you cannot guess...

I have indeed read both The Four Tendencies and Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin and recalled that I leaned toward the traits of an Upholder/Obliger. But somehow these old roles seem ill-fitting, like clothes that are now too tight. Out of curiosity, I visited Gretchen’s website and re-took the quiz. This time I landed squarely in the tendency of a Questioner.

According to the framework of the Four Tendencies -

Questioners question all expectations, and they respond to an expectation only if they conclude that it makes sense—in essence, they meet only inner expectations. They’re motivated by reason, logic, and fairness. They wake up and think, “What needs to get done today, and why?”

They decide for themselves whether a course of action is a good idea, and they resist doing anything that seems to lack purpose.

Because Questioners want to make well-considered decisions and come to their own conclusions, they tend to be intellectually engaged, and they’re often willing to do exhaustive research.

If they decide there’s sufficient basis for an expectation, they’ll follow it; they won’t follow it if they think it’s arbitrary, inefficient, or ineffective. They tend to take direction only from people they respect.

Reading the full report was affirming and helped me to understand myself. I do suffer from the dreaded “analysis-paralysis,” finding it difficult to make a decision and move forward, always wanting more information. One of my strategies for overcoming this tendency is to consult trusted authorities. In the case of my photography, I rely on a few mentors and sources that I have carefully vetted.

For example, I love the daily fine art posts from Lenscratch. This site introduces me to a wide variety of photographers and their art. Often posts include conversations and interviews with artists that shed light on their process and way of seeing. The days build upon one another such that I can sort and sift and discover those artistic methods that speak to me, those practices and approaches that I can bring into my own work.

And just like that, I’m inspired.

Such is the case with the New Jersey States Project Editor Kimberly Witham. Her still life photographs are based on the traditions of the Dutch Masters — featuring flora, fruit, and taxidermied animals.

Even when I think I have left still life photography behind, I have not.

The organized and meticulous nature of this kind of work can bring simplicity and contemplation to the forefront. But for me, this kind of work, making a picture, needs to be balanced with taking a picture. There is room for both.

I no longer fear beauty. These days, I can use as much beauty as I can find in the world.
— Kimberly Witham

chasing happiness

As the season deepens and the darkness settles around me, I find myself chasing happiness.

And I don’t think I am alone.

This is the time of year when shopping seems like medicine – where a Fitbit that counts my steps will make me feel accomplished; a new journal with lists for my goals and my gratitude will set me straight; a new app for meditation will calm my mind; or a new self-help book will improve me in some way. I feel the pull to set a word of the year, one that will be my guiding principle. And I imagine a grand scheme where I set about making changes that will make me happy.

But I’ve been fooled by this illusion before. It’s time to face reality. I’ve been stuck for some time – holding onto old patterns.

It’s time for real change.

A few thoughts on the truth about happiness from Matthew Jones of Inc. —

People are afraid of vulnerability, attached to their suffering, and stuck in their ways. They don't want to change.

They think that happiness is an object that can be purchased. Whether in a book, a pill, a work-out plan, or a simple to-do list prescribed by a life coach. The truth is that real happiness is always present in your life--you just need to get out of the way to access it.

You create suffering each time you imagine that happiness is an object. You elicit unhappiness each time you search for happiness. The mechanism of this seeking for happiness is what reinforces your isolation from its presence. Read that again.

Convincing yourself that you are inadequate--that your life needs something more and that you need to achieve things, own things, and buy things to find happiness--is what shackles you to unhappiness.

The only way to discover true happiness is to surrender to it. Open yourself up. Transform your habits. And stop practicing unhappiness.

You need to release the illusion taught to you by the self help industry--that happiness is an external object that can be purchased--and recognize that happiness is here, now. You are not broken. You are not weak. You are beautiful and complete just as you are.

out for a spin

A friend loaned me his Lensbaby Twist. Thank you, Alex!

I took the lens out for a spin.

I confess a personal bias against anything that feels like a fad or a gimmick, and the Lensbabies kinda feel this way for me. I’m of the camp that prefers to leave well enough alone and the Lensbabies seem to go out of their way to swirl and sweep and redecorate the content of the frame.

It’s not that I have anything against the latest – say the newest version of a smartphone – or the greatest – say an InstaPot. It’s just that I have a terrible history of buyer’s remorse when it comes to gadgets. I get swept up in hype, convinced by a friend’s success, or deluded by my own wishful thinking, and inevitably the much desired gadget ends up on a shelf – unused and unwanted. Benign neglect would be bad enough, but worse still, these purchases mock me. Seeing them reminds me that I don’t know myself nearly as well as I’d like; that I make the same mistakes repeatedly; that I sway like the wind, falling for anything. Or that I went along instead of going against the grain, just because I wanted to avoid being different or difficult.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a little lens.

Here’s my unedited review.

I had a dang hard time with the manual focus but it was fun spinning the focus ring back-and-forth, blurry-unblurry, to make fine adjustments. It takes a while to get the hang of it.

The naturally occurring vignette makes for a dramatic image. And I do love the vintage feel.

All that swirling around the subject, like the vortex of a tornado, makes me feel a kind of motion sickness.

When I transferred my photographs from the camera to the computer, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. At least, at first, the pictures felt unfamiliar. Not my usual style.

I didn’t fall in love with the Lensbaby Twist right away, but I’ll give a few more tries.

I’ll try to keep an open and curious mind.

I wonder what would happen if . . .