Tuesday 26 January meeting: It’s all in the Mind – Ken Scott

It’s all in the Mind – Ken Scott


What makes us point our cameras towards a subject in a certain way and how we can break free of our conditioning so we can take more ‘meaningful’ photos?


This was a question Ken dealt with in quite a different presentation to the usual camera club one. Rather than focussing on the ‘subject’ he concentrated on the elements of design – contrast, line, colour, pattern etc. – in and around the subject and explained why we are attracted, or not, to these elements in terms of our psychology.


His approach is similar to the current interest of ‘mindfulness’ in photography. Paul Sanders, who was picture editor of The Times, is one exponent of this and has also given us interesting presentations https://www.discoverstill.com/ .


A lot of Ken’s thinking is akin to eastern philosophical and religious views of ‘stillness’ and the benefits of looking without preconceived notions, the importance of calmness and the intended focussed attention.


In essence what he said was that we need to rise above the limitations of our experiences, desires, needs, so that we can see the world with more clarity, slow down, be calm and with focussed attention press that shutter.


Our ‘conditioning’ causes what he called ‘barriers to seeing’. He likened these to ‘filters’ in the way we see the world and we need to turn off these filters to allow our minds to be very still. The trick is to pay attention purposely, be in the present moment and be non-judgemental. This is easier said than done. To underscore this point he quoted the American photographer Aaron Siskind: “We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect… but, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”


He ran through why we are drawn to high contrast images because of our survival mechanism. On lines he said vertical indicated power, horizontals act as a spot point or barrier, oblique lines create movement, curve lines are gentler, slower, softer. Combining these lines creates shape. And if you tune into this you will see photographs everywhere.


Ken went on to talk about colour theory and spoke about the emotional impact of colour and went through various associations with colours. He also spoke about our perceptions related to emotions, symbols, meanings, identification and relationships.


He said that photography for him is capturing moments of magic in the mundane and describes how this comes about: a flash of perception (noticing something), take a breath to be relax, focussed attention and then take the photo. He ended his fascinating talk with a quote from William Blake:

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

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