On Contemplation and Perception

What is the nature of reality? I ask this question as I follow my subjects through the cycles of life, death and rebirth, often and surprisingly connecting pathos and joy. I am intimately aware of the sentience of all living entities and their oneness in consciousness.

I consider the images I create to be sensory artifacts that provide a conduit for others to directly experience new perceptions. The images are created digitally in camera, though not altered digitally in processing. They are often abstract, yet seem more real than the actual subject might normally look. Shooting digitally takes advantage of immediate feedback and allows me to push past surface appearances and use the optics of the camera to expand vision, showing either less detail where might be usual, or emphasizing the unexpected, underlying or overlooked. 

In the ongoing series A Crack in the World, created in Mariposa, California, I notice what I call a crack in the world where other dimensions with layers of depth appear, orbs pop and streaks of light dance through the landscape. Perspective shifts as the small becomes oversized and the distant, illusive. No hierarchy of importance or beauty is evident in this world of plant life, sky, stars and even fire. 

The series By Fire examines the human experiences of tragedy or immense difficulty that have often been described as a trial by fire. If we move through the metaphorical fire with awareness, we may find that facing mortality creates expansion and renewed life. In At the Museum, the images are blurred – stripped of narrative and rich in color, shape, light and energy. They contemplate the ephemeral nature of life and the perseverance of humanity. In all three bodies of work, the images are simultaneously less and more than their original subject matter and also transcend it.

Through my photographic practice, I have observed that since human senses perceive reality radically differently and at times with exponentially less sensitivity or intelligence than other biological species, how could we possibly know What is real? Our limited senses and the machines we build to extend them do not equip us to answer that question. We don’t know as much about dirt as the grass does, or as much about navigation as the monarch butterfly. But with insights we are discovering through science, and with discipline and attention, we can develop abilities in various practices such as art, meditation, lucid dreaming, etc. and use them to look for clues to the great existential questions which have implications for the future of the Earth itself.

It is a privilege to have the time to pay attention, to spend time in contemplation and observation. Many are too busy and lose touch with our oneness – our connectedness – to the living system of all that is. One symptom of that alienation is we don’t think we need to take care of each other or the Earth that sustains us, nor do we have an expectation of love or care for ourselves. 

What we think of as important, worthy or beautiful can and ought to be shaken up by seeing through the eyes of others. Though many interpretations can be gleaned from the work, creating empathy is a goal – empathy for ourselves, other sentient beings and the planet that sustains us.

Barbara Kyne