Contemplative Photography: Seeing in the Dark

My earliest memories of image making are in my father’s basement darkroom.  It was in the dark where liquids and magic paper, in the stillness of that space and time, brought things to light and life.  My father knew the power of a picture to convey meaning, and the act of taking pictures to be a deeply spiritual process.
Theodore Roethke’s words, “In the dark time, the eye begins to see…” punctuated my life at the sudden loss of my father, in 2011.  At 74 years old, my father died 21-days after a Pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Before his death he gave me a gift- his treasured Nikon-and the following instructions: “Find a grief counselor.  This is going to be tough.” It was, and I did.  Moreover, and it was as if he told me to, “Go outside, to heal”.  It was the camera that provided a landscape within which to grieve.
Grasping for a way to stay connected to my father, I began the daily process of going outside to take a picture, and upon return home, I would fill a blank page of my journal. Putting words to images, in what became my Mourning Journal, served as a way to write letters to my father.  I discovered that chosen images (or images that chose me) and journal entries helped me to reconstruct meaning, through the lens of loss.  By the third week, I discovered something else had happened--My journal entries became a prayer practice, and I opened up a dialog with God. I had found a way to re-connect to God, at a time when I questioned, “Is there a God?” It was as if I allowed space for God to show up on the page. 
Images convey meaning; they can tell important stories; and each person has a unique way of seeing. Let me lead you through a contemplative prayer practice of integrating photography, poetry, sacred text, and journal keeping as a way to find stillness in the midst of life’s transitions. This contemplative prayer practice is a way to cultivate the ability to see beneath the surface, to honor your own way of seeing the world, and to make meaning out of experience.
In this retreat you are encouraged to take your camera outside for photographic explorations, to engage in the present moment, and to cultivate sacred seeing. I will guide you through various aspects of the practice (including meditations to begin and end the practice), so that by the end of the workshop, you will be equipped to integrate the practice into your daily life.  Prompts such as, “What is going on in my life that I can express through this particular image?” will be provided, as well as “take away” resources. Emphasis will be on the artistic and spiritual process (and you do not have to be an artist) rather than technical aspects of photography. No fancy camera required but an IPhone or digital device that allows for sharing is highly recommended.
Come and See!  I hope you will join me on October 8th.


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Ingrid Cyros

Ingrid Cyros (M.Div.) is a workshop and retreat facilitator, and life-long artist whose passion is to explore the relationship between creativity and spirituality. She has led classes to introduce the practice of integrating photographic image and ...