Half-week homework: Peace

From Marie Kondo to Nelson Mandela, gentle thinkers around the world have long advocated for the value of a peaceful life. This week, your photo challenge is to capture that feeling of tranquility and harmonious coexistence—and to remind yourself just how much power art and photography have to make the world a better place.

Here are a few points to bear in mind as you stretch your photographic wings:

  • The first place to start is your happy place. Take some time to think about the people, places, or activities that loosen the tension in your muscles and make your brain breathe a big, cathartic sigh.
  • Landscapes are a great “big picture” option. A dock jutting out into a gorgeous mountain lake, snow falling gently on a pine-covered hill, sunset over a beach: these settings are pretty much universally calming. And if you or your viewer are emotionally connected to your specific choice of location, the effect can be multiplied ten-fold!
  • People are trickier to include, because life is inherently not still and portraits can be a little too vivacious to be truly peaceful. The emotional depth of the subject, however, also cries out for a subject of some sort. One way to straddle the line is to use human-esque subjects (like statues) or obscured people (silhouettes, people facing away) to communicate the humanity of your concept without injecting too much energy into the image.

I’ll admit it: I love a good argument. As a lifelong avoider of sports, I’ve always preferred the mental exercise of repartee to physical sparring. After a certain period of time, however, good-natured battles can become less so, and the infinite arena afforded by the combination of people conversing online and their opinions can entice you down a slippery slope to the dungeon of stress and bitterness. (Side effects may include high blood pressure and reduced empathy.) Nobody wants that!

That’s just one example of the myriad modern ways to become distracted from a positive path, and I’ve found that it’s increasingly more important to be vigilant about tempering passion with peace as the speed and richness of our interconnectedness continues to grow. Getting a little worked up is normal and healthy, and real problems are an all too common intrusion on our collective placidity, but who wouldn’t appreciate a little more stillness in life?

That’s where you and your camera come in. Imagine the feeling after a stormy night: warblers resume their song, shyly at first as the dawn breaks through dissipating clouds; the air is fresh with the smell of rain; still mostly sleeping, humans and animals alike are hunkered down and grateful for any shelter they found. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to craft a photograph that communicates that feeling to someone else. The really cool thing about art, of course, is that it flows both ways. Your journey in trying to make that photo might just give you as much healing from all things hectic as the result might be for a satisfied viewer! Lose yourself in the process, do your breathing exercises as you steady your shot, and emerge transformed on the other side.

As the old song says, “let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” Make the world a better place—share your results on our Facebook page or Instagram, tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework.

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