Ancestral Findings

Photography Clips

The Unthinking Mind

The Unthinking Mind

Our unthinking minds may be sending us signals that we hardly register as we go about life—but we should pay attention to those signals as potential opportunities for art.

Where does inspiration come from? Sometimes, it seems to come out of absolutely nowhere—and the interesting part is that when that inspiration comes from nowhere, sometimes, we miss it.

If you’re like me, then you’ve probably had a very similar experience: While out wandering around, something makes you stop. It isn’t necessarily that you had a conscious thought like, “wow, this is really beautiful,” or “this makes me feel a certain way.” It’s just something that catches the eye. It could be anything. Something that has perfect symmetry, something particularly visually satisfying, colors arranged in an unusual way, or something else. Whatever it was that made you stop, it was just something that without consciously thinking about it, you found it visually arresting.

When I speak of these visually arresting moments, I don’t necessarily mean those moments when we stop and stare, sometimes with jaw agape. Those are obvious sources of inspiration because you know when you react that strongly to something, it’s worth taking a photograph or twenty of it. More, I mean those harder to notice moments in which our gaze might linger for just a second or two. Not long enough to form thoughts or have overt reactions, just those things that give us brief pause before we move along.

Ancestral Findings

The regrettable thing about these little moments? We don’t always stop to make the photograph. There are lots of reasons why we pass these little opportunities by. Sometimes, they’re mundane reasons, like we’re on our way to work and simply don’t have the time or the equipment. You might sigh and think the light isn’t quite right. Other times, we don’t stop to take the photograph because we’re not in tune with our unthinking minds, the part of our mind that made us stop and look in the first place. Something nudged you to look, but the nudge wasn’t hard enough to make you think, “I should photograph this.”

I think it’s worthwhile for us to find ways to make more of these little signals that our unthinking minds throw us, and to be more aware of these signals in the first place. Part of being a photographer is being aware of the world around us so that we can document it, but we also must be aware of our own reactions to the world so that we don’t miss opportunities that might seem small at first, then turn into something larger later.

It might be an interesting exercise to go on little excursions, like walks around your neighborhood or local park, and just practice being aware of ourselves and those times when our eyes linger a little longer on something potentially photo-worthy so that we become better able to pick up on these small cues coming from the unthinking parts of our consciousness. The way I see it is that if something gives us pause, then there is something there—and we should explore whatever that something is to find out what it means. If we can find out what it means to us, then we can express that to others through our photographs.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will has been creating photographs and exploring his surroundings through his lens since 2000. He is a husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild. Follow along as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.