My Sacred Space -- Huntsville, Alabama Portrait Photographer
"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again." -- Joseph Campbell
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Last winter I was honored to be a part of one of Tammy Smith's workshops. At the time I'd been feeling less than good at what I do, disjointed, scattered with very little direction. I didn't know if I wanted to keep plowing through professional waters or hang my hat and go back to aimlessness -- heck, I was already aimless. I knew I was deeply artistic, knew I loved visual story, but I didn't know how to turn that into anything more than "just photography".
And then Tammy happened. One day spent with her made me do an about face, a total 180. I went from feeling powerless and pointless to empowered and purposeful. It was absolutely the (gentle) kick in the rear that I needed to push through and give myself permission to claim status as a photographer, an artist.
Tammy gave her workshop participants a few homework assignments, and I went home and almost immediately began work on the task that seemed most enjoyable: making a visual board. This is an exercise detailed in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (a fabulous book recommended by Tammy -- and myself, something I hadn't picked up since fine art courses in college); in order to find one's visual soul -- very important as a photographer! -- a person need only a stack of magazines and a pair of scissors. Turn page after page, looking with the deepest, most instinctual part of your being, and if something -- anything at all -- gives you pause, rip it out and set it aside. Don't question, just do.
I encouraged my daughters to join me in the exercise, and it was a wonderfully liberating experience, not just in tearing something up (and there is a childlike part of me that found a great deal of pleasure in destroying some magazines), but in opening up and tearing down interior walls. It was a form of play, with purpose, because the ultimate goal was to create something from the chaos: a collage depicting the sacred space that lies within.
As I sat there, ripping and cutting into the stack of pages and tidbits I'd culled from magazines, I thought about what I was truly seeing, listened to the words and feelings that rose to the surface of my heart. I experienced a deep sense of self, of my soul, accepted that many of the images I'd chosen -- been drawn to -- flowers and spices, food and light, romance and art and architecture, it all evoked a sense of quiet comfort and peace, of home and beauty. I recognized the deep appreciation I have for story and spirituality, of connectedness to the earth and to humanity and thus to the Creator of it all. I sensed a vast desire to experience adventure, recognized deep ties to words, felt a sense of wonder at the cluttered state of my alive and active mind, brimming as it is with color and texture and yearning for relationship and experiences. Tones of mystery and promise, hope and warmth, dreams and fantasy -- all of it swirled in front of me.
I was rather shocked at how deftly my mind had created this from a disjointed jumble of magazine guts. Something deeper than my conscious mind had clattered forth and laid claim to that which spoke most deeply of my needs, of who I am purposed to be.
So now I have this collage. I love it because it's like looking at the inside of me. And seeing "myself" like that is eye-opening, mind-altering. And it's already changing the way I view my work and art, the way I interact with other wonder-filled souls, the way I approach them with my camera. That's a beautiful thing.
If you've not done this exercise, you absolutely should. And when you do, please come back and tell me all about it -- better yet, shoot me a message with a picture of your soul, your sacred space. I'd love to witness that with you.