It was said of Emerson that every moment was epiphanic. So to Emerson, every moment, whatever he saw, would be epiphanic, would be the Burning Bush. That’s what I try to do with the camera and then hopefully one day maybe without the camera which is what Emerson was doing always. Sometimes I can do it with the camera and maybe when I get old enough, I’ll be able to do it without the camera all the way through.
There would be nothing I would love more than having a person dying of cancer look at a photograph and instantly be cured of the cancer. And they then go on to do the same thing—take photographs themselves and go on to help other people be cured of cancer. But my work as a healer is not to “help cure the cancer,” but help to cure the anguish of the person who has the cancer. And the cancer will do whatever it will do, whatever the body is going to do, whatever has been ordained for it. My work is to help the anguish.
That’s why every photograph can be a Burning Bush. The art of relationship photography is to make this Burning Bush obvious, which is not in the pretty sunsets, which maybe thousands of years ago had that power. You don’t see God in the sunsets; you just say, “Pretty.” You need to go further than that as Blake did: “To my friend Butts I write / My first vision of light / On the yellow sands sitting.”[i] But he saw light as an instance of God, not just as a pretty postcard sunset.
May my every picture
be as Blake’s Vision of Light.
Oh, if only…!
The job of the photographer, I believe, the healer as photographer, the photographer as healer, is to say, “This is an instance of God because we have this intense relationship. I can feel it; I can feel it; I capture it; I take it; I enshrine it so that people later can have this new instance of God on earth, in this particular material form.” That will then relieve their anguish and then whatever happens physically happens physically as it’s supposed to do.
Theoretically, one photograph should be the one to heal anyone of any affliction. That’s the one I keep photographing for. I cannot—definitely cannot—proclaim that one of my photographs will cure your disease. However, with every single one, that always is my hope. That it will give you hope. And with hope there is always healing.
The Watershed Experience
This leads me to a concept I call the watershed experience. A watershed is like a mountain range: on one side it’s rain and fog and misery, on the other side it’s brilliant sunlight. I used to say when someone came to me that every visit should be a watershed experience: they may come in misery, but they should leave in sunshine. They should have in essence I would say now an epiphanic experience—they should see the Numinous, the Burning Bush. They should see their mother’s soul and therefore their own, and therefore everyone else’s.
I am often asked how one can carry this into their daily life. How do you achieve and stay in a state of high Life Energy? The first thing is to look at the photograph or the equivalent and feel it. Take The Feeling in. The purpose of the photograph is to help you understand, to feel what The Feeling is that you are trying to feel.
So look at a high Life Energy photograph and take in The Feeling—it doesn’t matter what the subject is—it is The Feeling—Beyond the Obvious of what you are looking at. So you get The Feeling and then you put it aside and see if you still feel It. If you watch someone doing this, you will see their eyes change when they look at the photo. Then if they do not keep The Feeling you will see how they lose this particular vitality, this spirit in their eyes, when the photograph is taken away.
Look at the photograph, take it in, get The Feeling, and then put it aside, and ask, Do I have The Feeling here? Do I have The Feeling there? And gradually go from this particular to the general.
I’m saying look at the photograph and as it were, ask for it to be a watershed experience. Be aware of your anguish, be aware of what’s not right deep inside you, the estrangement you have from your soul and use that particular picture—it doesn’t matter which one as long as the Life Energy is high—look at it as a watershed experience. “As I look at that there’s going to be a permanent change.” It doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be sunlight, but from this moment on there will have been sunlight and that will lead to the next one, and the next one and so on. Hopefully one watershed experience should be enough but that’s for the millennia in the future.
[i] The opening of his “To Thomas Butts.”