These are all workshops that I’ve taught at different places, and want to offer again — probably in new ways.  I’m talking with several  conference centers, but also invite you to consider these for your school, your church, or your community group.

About Listening

Listening is the core activity in almost all of our social and work lives — and yet how little time and effort we spend perfecting this skill!  And too often when we should be listening, we’re really preparing to talk, plotting our course, processing our emotions, or even tuning out completely.  In this workshop we’ll practice active listening, offering feedback to test our understanding, and formulating questions that clarify what was already said.  We’ll identify common behaviors that get in the way of listening, and best practices that can help us all.

Photography as Journal Keeping

Photography can be just snapshots, or deeper expressions of feelings, perceptions, ideas, memories. We’ll experiment with deeper ways to see, experience, and feel — using a camera.  This is NOT a technical class on photography, and in fact you don’t even need to bring a camera with you.  Just bring an open mind, open eyes, and (if you have one) an image that means a lot to you.

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Last weekend I was co-leader of a workshop on “Photography as a Spiritual Practice”.  This is how Woolman Hill (a Quaker conference center in South Deerfield, Massachusetts) listed the workshop in their program:

Arthur Fink and Tony Stapleton are both Quaker photographers who carry their photographic work (or play) as a spiritual inquiry or expression.  They invite you to join in this weekend of photographing from within, which will include time for worshiping together, making pictures, sharing our work and process, and just enjoying Woolman Hill.  Our goal is to broaden our vision, open our spiritual awareness, and, in the process, learn how to take more expressive pictures.  This will not be about technical photography instruction, and all photographers are welcome regardless of technical knowledge or experience.

The most important news to report is that we had no trouble finding an energetic  group of participants who agreed with this theme — that photography is part of our spiritual lives.  It’s about discovery and expression, about worship and reverence, about self and other.  Images are metaphors for deeper understanding, even as they are clusters of silver particles or digital pixels that we labor with as we craft our art work.  But these are my words — not theirs.  What I’m reporting is not a manifesto from the group, but my own distillation of what I saw going on.

Sensing that this might workshop might not fill Woolman Hill, the director had scheduled another workshop to share the conference center with us.  We were paired with “The Wisdom to Know The Difference: A Weekend on Discernment”, led by Eileen Flanagan.  I’d strongly recommend her new book, “The Wisdom to Know the Difference: When to Make a Change and When to Let Go” — available at Amazon.com and at other bookstores.  It was wonderful to be constantly reminded that the process of photography is a kind of discernment, as we choose to put our frames around very select portions of the visual world that we experience.

I’m excited about running other similar workshops, as well as more programs on creativity and spirit in general (not tied to a particular artistic discipline, like photography or dance).  I’ve run these in the past, and was always touched by the gifts that each participant shared.

My main message to our  group this weekend — Look and see, before you photograph.  This may sound trivial, or obvious.  It’s not.  The process and technique of photography can easily absorb us, and distract us from sensing where we are, what we feel, and what we have to say and share.

Interested in this dialog?  Please respond here, or contact me.

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