Helpers - jwardenphotography

We’ve barely begun our quest and already Roger Housden, Maria Konnikova and Emily Carr are helping us to find our way. Are there others to whom we can look for the information and knowledge we need for our vision quest? As the Beatles famously said in 1965, we need somebody, but not just anybody. Joseph Campbell, master and mentor of the hero’s quest, has some advice:

Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives. The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience the light.

Without light there is no vision quest, but if there’s even a little, we can look to artists and authors who are meant to help us experience that light. Here are some of the helpers that have pointed me along the path of my vision quest and helped me to see the light:

Joseph Campbell, and his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, (2008, Novato, California: New World Library), provided the monomyth format.

Emily Carr is amazing. The more times I read her book Hundreds and Thousands (Clark Irwin and Company Limited, 1966), the more I come to understand that she was a true master, of writing and painting. Her words may be prose, but they read like poetry. She taught me about pausing, but also about color, light and line and that which speaks to the heart. Probably no single artist or author has taught me more about nature photography than Emily Carr.

Arthur P. Coleman, through his book, The Canadian Rockies: New and Old Trails,  (1911, London: T. Fisher Unwin), taught me about majesty.

Leonardo da Vinci taught me about sfumato, chiaroscuro, pyramid composition and dominant eye on the centre line.

Patricia Donegan, and her book Haiku Mind (Shambhala Publications, 2008), taught me about pausing and crystalline moments of heightened awareness.

Roger Housden and his book, How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful Imperfect Self - Life Lessons from the Master (Harmony Books, Random House, 2005), put the words around what I’ve been doing unconsciously for a long time, ‘the long slow look’.

Maria Konnikova and her book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Penguin Books, 2013), fine tuned my thinking on the long slow look.

With his wonderful book Emily Carr Country, (McClelland & Stewart; 1st edition 2001), Courtney Milne pointed me towards Emily Carr.

Freeman Patterson’s book the garden  (Key Porter Books, 2003), is probably the best book I’ve ever read on the philosophy of photography. He too taught me about ‘seeing with the heart’ and ‘creating our own journey’ but he also got me thinking about ‘the why’ of photography.

Rembrandt van Rijn, taught me about Chiaroscuro.

Mary Schaffer’s book Old Indian Trails, Incidents of Camp and Trail Life, Covering Two Years' Exploration through the Rocky Mountains of Canada, (1911, New York — G. P. Putnam's Sons— London), Introduced me to the idea of a quest, and her goal of learning the secrets of Mother Nature.

My karate sensei, Philip Watland, taught me about the Japanese phrase Ichi-go – ichi-e, one moment one opportunity and about polishing my spirit through ceaseless daily practice.

Dutch author and Zen aficionado, Janwillem Van De Wetering, taught me about small understandings, through his book Inspector Saito's Small Satori’ (Putnam Pub Group 1985). 

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