Session Three: Photography Activity

“Frames of Mind[fulness]”
Laura Chessin

This is a concentrated looking and “noting” exercise partnered with a breathing exercise. Awareness of the breath keeps us from mental distractions, slows us down, and helps find a continuous rhythm for a few moments. The point of this exercise is to practice a focused way of looking, framing, “noting”, and then recording. It is also a way to suggest that a way to deal with a large problem is to break it down into parts and look more closely with an open and curious mind.

  1. Any object that you use (or maybe lose) on a regular basis. For demonstration, I chose my keys sitting on the counter.
  2. A phone with a camera. Make sure you have enough storage space on your phone to shoot 50 still images.
  1. Place the object as you would normally (no need to place it “artfully”) on a table in some way that you are able to move around it. Or choose an object that you happen to have sitting right in front of you. Frame the object so that you see the entire object (i.e. no cropping).This is where you start.Take one nice relaxed breath, then exhale gently.Repeat this slow inhale and exhale to help bring focus. Study the shape of the object and the shapes the occur around the object, referred to as “negative space”.Take a photograph. You are recording both the object and the space around it.This is image one.
  2. Now move your phone just slightly so that you frame the object another way. With two mindful breaths, your focus narrows. What changes? Note that the space and shapes between the object and the camera’s frame edge changes. Each time you relax and breathe, mentally note what caught your attention. Has the light hit the object in a different way?Do you now see scratches or words, or shapes that you didn’t noticed before.Take another photo.This is image two.
  3. Each time you relax and breathe, mentally note what caught your attention. Try to keep the shifts slight so that your movements, as with your breath, are gentle and relaxed.Continue this practice of slightly shifting the frame, with the rhythm of your breathing. Taking a couple breaths as you frame and observe. Each time, mentally noting when caught your attention. 50 images is a good number to aim for so that as you’re breathing and recording images. you are also counting.
If you would like to keep track of time during this activity, please click the bar below when you begin. At the end of 20 minutes, you will hear a set of chimes to indicate time is up. You can reset the timer for another 20 minutes by clicking RESET at the top right.

When you have completed this exercise, you may have forgotten about how this object functions and been purely focused on form. If you want to follow up and consider some practical application of this exercise, think about how in a stressful situation the mind easily jumps around to what may have happened in the past, or into anxiety about what might happen in the future.

If you focus entirely on how you are responding to the situation and trying to breathe with ease, it might help to create space between you and the situation and observe it a little more objectively. This exercise can also serve to remind that our way of seeing a situation is never static or fixed. Sometimes just a slight adjustment in attitude can help bring about a shift in our relationship to a stressful situation. When we focus, our mind opens.


“Mindfulness Practices For Greater Focus, Empathy, and Creativity”

Talk by Paola Antonelli, the design curator of MOMA

Longer conversation about noticing. “a lot is going on, and it’s all in flux.”

When you have finished the activity, and want to share your images, click below.

Then continue to the end of the session.