At the heart of my creative awakening are two daily practices—photography and movement—and they are deeply interwoven.

I absolutely love to move, and this practice is largely responsible for my good mood and general well-being. But this is a story for another time.

The story here is the one on photography, and the need to share.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when I find my way, on my own. And this is how it is when it comes to my experience with photography. In the readings for my photography book club, from Zen Camera, I see myself and my journey to learn.

I’ve known for a long time that I work better in collaborative relationships.

Identity and personal vision can only be found in relationship to others and to the culture of which you are a part. Your identity as a person and as a photographer shapes itself in response to the world and your experiences. Your contributions are always in some form of dialogue with the accomplishments of others. No one stands completely alone.

Collective intelligence comes from synergy and has much greater force than what you can come to strictly on your own. —David Ulrich, Zen Camera

I’ve known that it is worthwhile to be a copycat.

When you encounter striking images or noteworthy approaches to the medium, learn to “steal” like an artist. You have permission to freely borrow ideas from others. Do not hesitate to do so. In the USA, ideas and methods cannot be owned by anyone. Under copyright law, only the works themselves have legal protection. Concepts may flourish and evolve.

Inspiration and influence pass freely between artists and can help shape your work in many ways. —David Ulrich, Zen Camera

I’ve known that I need a balance between quiet alone time and lively time together with friends, family, and colleagues.

Photographers often crave an alternating balance between engagement and solitude. They interact intensely with the world, then withdraw to the quiet concentration of the digital lab or darkroom. —David Ulrich, Zen Camera

I’ve known that I need someone to pour my heart out to, someone who “gets” me, and someone who values art as I do.

There are many ways to enlarge our viewpoint, find inspiration and discover both the sparks of friction and the encouragement—people come together to share images arranged through meet-ups . . . Be open to intelligent critique. Have coffee or drinks with friends and colleagues interested in photography. Talk about everything under the sun. But above all, have an open mind, listen to others, and be ready to vigorously express your own questions, aspirations and discoveries. —David Ulrich, Zen Camera

And I’ve known that I need mentors whose work I respect and admire.

When you observe the work of others, look for echoes of your own identity and being. Which bodies of work speak directly to you? Which works do you want to emulate? Do not worry about originality. It will find you; you do not need to find it. There is nothing new under the sun—except for you. You’ll be shaped by your influences but the way in which you treat photography is yours and yours alone. —David Ulrich, Zen Camera

To these ends, I maintain a folder of favorite photographers. The list grows as my ability to understand art expands and I learn to listen rather than like. Here a few of my best-loved, those I follow faithfully.

Susan Licht

Rebecca Lily and Johnny Patience

Susan Worsham

Ashleigh Coleman

When I read on Lenscratch that Ashleigh Coleman had won First Prize at Slow Exposures 2018, I was not surprised. I was overjoyed for her. Not only do I admire Ashleigh’s photography, but I love her sensibility. She radiates kindness, warmth, sincerity and compassion. We’ve corresponded a few times over the years and without fail, I have been lifted up and encouraged with each exchange. Ashleigh’s picture, the one that won, was a stunning and tender image of young girl in a red sweater holding a blue bird, from her project, Piece of Heart.

I printed small versions of Ashleigh’s pictures from her Piece of Heart project and displayed them on a white platter on my dining room table. I’ve lived with them every day this month, letting them sink into my heart and my visual memory. I can’t begin to tell you how much this simple practice has inspired my photography. My vision is influenced by Ashleigh’s work—so that the stream of creativity widens.

photographs by Ashleigh Coleman - displayed on white platter

Every picture on this post is in the manner of my friend and fellow photographer, Ashleigh.

Congratulations, Ashleigh! Thank you for being part of my creative community.