In all things, the Way does not want to be obstructed, for if there is obstruction, there is choking; if the choking does not cease, there is disorder, and disorder harms the life of all creatures ~Chuang-Tzu*

linesandshapes (4)

When I chisel a wheel, if the blows of the mallet are too gentle, the chisel slides and won’t take hold. But if they’re too hard, it bites in and won’t budge. Not too gentle, not too hard–you can get it in your hand and feel it in your mind.  You can’t put it into words, and yet, there’s a knack to it somehow. I can’t teach it to my son, and he can’t learn it from me. ~Wheelwright P’ien*

*cited in:

Tao of Photography Seeing Beyond Seeing

Philippe L. Gross & S.I. Shapiro

initially posted on September 21, 2013

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.

~Carl Jung (cited: Sean Tucker, Embace your Shadows: A lesson for Light and Life)
Leica D-Lux 7 f/1.7 1/2500s 10.9mm 200 ISO

The only time we are changing as human beings is in the shadows, the dark times.

Sean Tucker: Embrace your Shadows: A Lesson for Light and Life

The hunting lanterns

on Mount Ogura have gone,

the deer are calling for their mates…

How easily I might sleep,

if only I didn’t share their fears.

~Ono no Komachi (cited: J Hirshfield & M Aratani, The Ink Dark Moon)


“I suggest that… Although healthy persons communicate and enjoy communicating, the other fact is equally true, that ‘each individual is an isolate, permanently non- communicating, permanently unknown, in fact, unfound.’” ~ Winnicott, The Holding Environment

“…What was really incomprehensible was the discussion, as it was called. Cast into and enclosed in the gray lead frame of polite empty British phrases, the people spoke perfectly past one another. Constantly they said they understood each other, answered each other. But it wasn’t so. No one, not a single one of the discussants, showed the slightest indication of a change of mind in view of the reasons presented. And suddenly, with a fear I felt even in my body; I realized that’s how it always is.  Saying something to another, how can we expect it to affect anything? The current of thoughts, images and feelings that flows through us on every side, has such force, this torrential current, that it would be a miracle it it didn’t simply sweep away and consign to oblivion all words anyone else says to us, if they didn’t by accident, sheer accident, suit our own words. Is it different with me? I thought. Did I really listen to anybody else? Let him into me with his words so that my internal current would be diverted.” ~ Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon (pg 136-137)

“…It is a joy to be hidden but disaster not to be found.” ~ Winnicott, The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment : Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development

Looking for curves…Nikon D750    f/7.1    1/80s   35mm   100 ISO

“Photography is a medium where one admires the work done by others…It is great to admire the work of other people, but it’s necessary to have one’s own distinctive style…I would rather be a mediocre photographer than an excellent imitator..the best thing I have ever heard about my work is when someone said, “that is unmistakably a Ralph Gibson photograph…” ~Ralph Gibson

During a taped interview with COOPH, Ralph Gibson shares a koan that was offered to him by Dorothea Lange, “Oh, I see your problem Ralph you have no point of departure.”

To which Ralph replied, “That’s true Dorothea. What is the point of departure?

“Well if you have your camera and you’re going down to the drugstore to buy toothpaste…you have an objective to buy toothpaste…you might then intersect something worth photographing. But if you just walk around the street looking for something to shoot you will never achieve very much.”

Looking for geometric shapes….Nikon D750   f/7.1   0.4s  24mm   100 ISO

Ralph Gibson has expanded his initial understanding of a point of departure.  It guides him to be looking for an unusual point of interest or perspective in an ordinary frame. To help achieve this point of departure, he notes, “Take your camera everywhere with you… If you have your camera in tow, chances are that you might come across a striking frame. But, if you just stand at the corner of a street and wait for something to happen, you will never get a picture.”

“To have a point of departure is not to go out and shoot. It’s to have a project in mind and going out looking for a shot that represents or showcases this emotion or concept that your project is about.” ~Ralph Gibson

looking for shadows…Nikon D750   f/7.1  1/30s   35mm   100 ISO

“From now on, before I go shoot, I’ll consult internally to focus on one thing I want to capture, and have that point of departure. It’ll give purpose to my work and me being out there. The advantages are that I’ll learn patience, presence and a deeper sense of observation. This is a powerful and deep message…have a point of departure.” ~Ralph Gibson

  1. Find your point of departure….decide what to photograph. ”Is it the who or the what I’m photographing…?”  What is it I’m looking for in…?
  2.  Establish a visual signature…when you look at the work of somebody you admire that photographer has a visual signature to their work.  It is because their way of looking is something you recognize…how they are perceiving the world…
  3. Don’t listen to the critics…if you pay attention to what other people say about your work, you’re not going to really know very much about your own work. You’re going to know what they think about it but you’re not going to know why you do it.
  4. Be inspired…the key is not to get too inspired. Staying inspired is really the number one question in the creative person’s life.

looking for shadows…Nikon 750   f/7.1   1/15s   35mm   100 ISO

“I have investigated a lot of ideas—I love taking pictures of nothing, of ordinary objects, maybe even just the corner of a room. I love flattening and even reducing things. When I photograph flesh, I like to make it look like a stone. But, when I am photographing a stone, I like to make it look alive. I love re-contextualising the quality of my subjects.”~Ralph Gibson

Why not take a few minutes to wander about a gallery of Ralph Gibson’s work:

As I’ve noted before, I have enjoyed the process of sharing ideas and images.  I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about point of departure. 

What is it

about this twilight hour?

Even the sound

of a barely perceptible breeze

pierces the heart.

~Izumi Shikibu (J Hirshfield & M Aralani, The Ink Dark Moon)