Resilience through the eye of the camera lens

Reflections on creativity and resilience

Having just returned from a Travel Photography course I am struck by the very close links between the course and to my work in resilient leadership.  In particular the link between what I do and who I am.

The first lesson was around adopting a beginner’s mindset.  I feared that I would be ‘found out’ as the least knowledgeable of the group and initially I noticed a desire to sit back and try to make myself small.  However, having the awareness of this (it’s a familiar pattern) I decided to trust my instincts and relax into the process.  Our tutor Tracy Hallett guided us gently through assignments designed to relax and she encouraged the group to have fun with our learning.  By letting go of the mindtalk I was also able to let go of my expectations and really start to listen and learn from the amazing environment at West Dean College.

A photographing treasure hunt gave an opportunity to explore the house and grounds. I began to feel on solid ground.  Each of us explored the estate from our own unique perspective. No one was better or worse, experienced or inexperienced – we were all just different and we saw the world in different ways.  My curiosity was heightened.

As the days and assignments passed our individual artistic styles started to emerge in our work.  Tracy taught us the ‘Rules’ and encouraged breaking them in order to experiment and to play.

One challenge was to sit at a bench for 5 minutes and not move. Pictures were to be taken of whatever emerged for us.  My goal for the programme was to leave with one picture I was proud of.  It was this vision that kept me still for the full five minutes.

Five minutes may not seem like a long period of time however it required considerable effort on my part. It was a change from my normal way of wanting to be constantly in action.  I saw things just out of range, I wanted to get up and move closer to objects.  I was convinced that I would take a ‘better’ picture if I were only 3 feet further forward – but NO, the challenge was clear.

My mind slowed down and my ‘being’ took over.  The ‘doing’ side of me was put firmly in my camera bag and I experienced a deeper listening to the birds in the trees and watching a duck take flight.  The outputs may not have been technically brilliant however the learning was tremendous. I was living in the present and enjoying it rather than planning for the future.  My confidence in my photography grew enormously at that point.

I practiced being fully present in my surroundings and I was able to see the world more clearly. I noticed more and I experience the wholeness of the moment.  The desire to get it right, to avoid the fear of being ridiculed and the apprehension of holding a piece of equipment that ‘needed’ to be used at full stretch had actually been holding me back.  Those five minutes on the bench showed me that real learning could only take place once I had made a connection with the moment I was in.

The link to the Resilient Leaders Elements was clear to me. Tracy demonstrated Leadership Presence by serving the needs of the group and being committed to each of us developing as individuals and amateur photographers. This was based on a thorough understanding of her subject and having the confidence to hold it lightly in service of our learning.

My Awareness helped me to stay in the beginner’s mindset and really experience being in the moment, learning from others and the environment I was in.  I was able to let go of the self doubt and become fully immersed in my and others learning. In addition Resilient Decision Making allowed my creativity to open up possibilities to achieve my vision (Clarity of Direction).

Coming back to the office I am reminded of this learning. The dive into creativity has allowed me to redesign my website in a way that I believe mirrors more of who I am and what I do.  It also has my own photographs!  Take a look and let me know what you think.