Being Connected Using Mindfulness and the Art of Photography

August 14, 2018

Being Connected Using Mindfulness and the Art of Photography

“To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh, Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living

Living the Now

In search of my artistic and spiritual voice, I've studied diverse subjects including painting, sculpting, poetry, philosophy, and religion. It wasn't until I picked a camera and discovered the art of photography that I found my artistic medium. There is only one thing a photographer can create: what is in front of his senses at the moment of clicking the shutter; I am the connecting instrument.

The Early Years

At the age of 18, I discovered the teachings of Buddha and the grounding powers of meditation, stillness, and focus. Through these practices, I began living in the Now. My life changed, I woke up and saw the beauty of the world with new eyes. At this time, I also began studying art and photography. The moment I looked through the viewfinder, framed a scene, I felt awake, in focus, and in the moment. Each day I continue to celebrate the awe and wonder of life by capturing the world.  Cities, oceans, mountains, animals, and people are all joined together on this floating rock in the middle of the universe we call home.

As an immigrant, it was difficult to switch from the security of studying to become a doctor to becoming an artist. Through meditation and photography, I found insight, stillness, inner peace and joy. I switched paths and graduated from Rutgers College with a B.A. in Studio Art.

Buddhism and the Art of Photography

Through the study of Buddhist teachings, I’ve achieved a greater understanding of my here and now. It’s helped me master the ability to celebrate each, and every moment. Buddhism and the art of photography go hand in hand.  As humans, one of our greatest gifts is the ability to appreciate and take joy in our ability to see colors and patterns. A camera is a wondrous tool. Every moment is unique, and every time I find the right combinations of colors and patterns within my frame, I click a shutter and preserve the moment. Magical.

Finding the Story and Capturing It

When I was fifteen, I cut the words IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL out of red construction paper and taped them onto my ceiling so that when I woke up, I would appreciate each new day. There’s beauty all around us. Whether we’re in an urban, rural, or natural setting, we’re in a moment in time that will never repeat itself. Before I take a photo, I breathe, pause, focus my eyes, look, and appreciate that there is nothing more enchanting than something created by Mother Nature. How mystical are the old-growth redwood forests found in California and Oregon? The awe and wonder of being surrounded by these majestic 2000-year-old trees. You can't help but feel linked to a primal force before thinking and coming to a place of harmony and connection deep within yourself.

While some things are meant to be captured in black and white, others need color to show the world’s pure brilliance. Black and white photography is where I got my start. It wasn’t until I started working as a photographer’s assistant under two masters of color, Jay Maisel and Pete Turner that I began to shoot in color. As a former painter, studying Josef Alber, Matisse, Rothko, Gauguin, and others,  I understand the emotional impact that color evokes. A field of sunflowers, for example, wouldn’t be the same if taken in black and white. The circular, graphic patterns of browns and yellows framed by the green of the stalks topped with a band of blue sky excite our eyes and cause vibrations in the soul.

Living in the present has given me the mindfulness and patience needed to get the photo no matter how long it takes or the effort involved. Whether I am hanging out of a window photographing a parade in New York City,  where perfect images come every minute, or I am waiting days for the elements of an ideal landscape to come together for a book, instead of getting frustrated I enjoy the journey.

When I select photos for a collection, I ask myself “Is there life?” Does the photo sing?  Art is knowing which one to keep. My goal is to evoke joy, passion, celebration, and harmony with each picture that is printed. Imagine a single ethereal cloud suspended above the ocean and kissed by twilight’s pink glow. The photograph has a life. The ethereal cloud will dissipate, and the sun will set leaving a new landscape in its place. It’s a captured moment in time that has life, a voice. 

Travel is a significant inspiration. Whether I’m going across the country or the globe, the change of scenery recharges my appreciation of the uniqueness of this world. Each day I meet new people that broaden my outlook on life for the better. I discover different cultures that get my creative juices flowing. All of which helps me stay connected with the present. The Now.

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."  Henry David Thoreau  

Together in the Moment

Throughout my 40-year career, I’ve been blessed to have my artwork displayed throughout various museums, corporations, hospitals, and private collections around the globe. Presidents, celebrities, and  Pope John II have received my books. I'm honored to have numerous award-winning photographs and best-selling books, but the next picture...the one I haven’t yet taken, will always have my heart.

I am grateful that the books and art that I have created connects with people who buy my artwork. It allows me to continue to develop and produce new photos. The art of photography is my way to express myself and stay connected with the world.  I’m on a mission to bring joy and beauty to the world.  I want you to be able to experience something magical right in your home. Being in the moment expanded my creative process. Wake up, breathe, look, and stay focused daily.  Each image I take is a paragraph in the world’s story which leads to the next. I may not know the whole story, but I appreciate the journey that leads me to the right photograph.

Thank You.

Jake


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