For several decades before I got into photography - which occurred just about four years ago - I focused much of my time and energy on absorbing the beauty and spirituality of inspiring landscapes into myself and then EMBODYING these qualities within my being, radiating them back into my surroundings. My path was one of reflecting beauty back to the Divine - both God and Goddess - and I consequently thought little about what the response of other people might be. I did teach and write extensively about the landscapes I love, but that writing focused mostly on a description of the spiritual qualities I could feel in Nature rather than on the externals of the landscape.
With the advent of photography in my life, however, I began sharing the visual aspects of the landscape with people. I still wrote, but in shorter passages, and used those writings to supplement the photos. That, of course, is what I still do. About the time I began using a camera, I also joined Facebook, and I discovered that I could now reach thousands of people rather than just a few dozen either through my lectures or writings. In a sense, therefore, my time in the wilderness gradually began to focus more on other people - i.e., on the imagined viewers of my photos - and in helping them experience the beauty of Nature in fresh ways through my camera lens. In fact, I've understood this to be one of my major services to the world. Nowadays, I still take time out for meditation, reflection and journaling when I'm out in the wilderness, but increasing amounts of time are now devoted to photography and to thinking about how I might help my viewers live more spiritually fulfilled lives.
Interestingly, I've fantasized that I have hundreds - and maybe even thousands - of viewers intently following my work. But over the past few weeks, I've had a sudden wakeup call. I now realize that the number of people who are intimately involved with my work is probably just several dozen. There are others as well, but they perhaps just dip in and out once in a while. This number is probably just a few more than the audience I had for my writings and lectures in the advent before I became a photographer. What this awareness has done is to make me realize that I've been spending far too much time thinking about these imagined viewers and their reactions. Of course this is a reasonable attitude, considering the fact that I am attempting to make more of a living from my craft. But because of recent disappointments, I understand now that I need to return to the fact that I am called primarily to be an eye through which THE DIVINE knows and appreciates Beauty, regardless of whether other people see and appreciate my work.
It is easy at first to think that the photography is purely for other people to appreciate, and that I should therefore scale back on it and focus more on reflecting beauty back to the Divine from within my inner being, just as I did for decades before I started doing photography. However, this morning I came to the sudden realization that my photography, strange as this might seem, is actually primarily for THE DIVINE to enjoy - for God and Goddess - who are able to appreciate their own beauty and goodness even more thoroughly through my photographs rather than solely through my inner being. It is this realization that brings immense peace to my heart and soul, for it enables me to continue my craft - rather than give it up - regardless of the reactions or non-reactions of others. After all, my own life - like that of each and every one of us - is meant to be lived first and foremost in the presence of The Divine Beloved. People and their varying reactions will come and go, but at their core - and within my own act of perception of the natural world both through my eyes and through my camera - is a Divine Presence who is the TRUE audience for my work :)
Photo: Aspens and Pyramid Peak, Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, CO, September 27, 2015
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I am available for one-on-one spiritual direction / mentoring via phone or Skype. You can contact me at email@example.com if you are interested. The rate is $65 per hour-long session. You might also want to check out my Spiritual Direction with Stephen Hatch Facebook page.
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.