Saturday, 18 March 2017

Photography as Listening




“To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior 
stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches,
 arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no 
longer have an inner need to make their presence known. 
They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.”

- Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic Theologian, 1932-1996

My dear friend Barbara, an American Quaker from Minneapolis, is a supporter of the Compassionate Listening Project (link). The project is dedicated to listening to people tell their stories as a way of healing the planet. Or, as my late partner would put it, “Listening people into existence.” It’s an approach to peace making – and living – that resonates strongly with me.

Barbara recently posted the above quotation by Henri Nouwen to Facebook as an excellent summary of the Compassionate Listening Project’s philosophy. When I read it, I was immediately struck by the similarity between listening and photography, or at least the kind of photography that has taken root in my soul.

Consider this reframing of Nouwen’s words:

...To photograph is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True photographers no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept...

Photography as listening – and witnessing – is an idea I want to explore further in this blog. Meanwhile, I’ll let it percolate away in my mind over the coming weeks as Bill and I travel in Australia.


Here are images from previous trips to Australia, humbly offered as acts of listening and witnessing. Enjoy.

Luna Park, Sydney

Therapeutic Clowns, Sydney Children's Hospital.
Alas, I've lost their names.

Near Martin Place, Sydney

Construction Hoarding, Melbourne

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and photographer

Puppet Shop, The Rocks, Sydney

Rob's bus crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Canada Day, 2013

Spencer in the entrance of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

St. Kilda Beach, Melbourne

Tim Burton display, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI),
Federation Square, Melbourne

Unknown colonial governor, Sydney.

Luna Park, Sydney













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