Workshop Number: 32
Leaders: Peter West Nutting
Who May Register?: Adults Only (high school with permission)
Worship/Worship-Sharing: 25%
Lecture: 15%
Discussion: 10%
Experiential Activities: 50%

Who May Attend?
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

Discover how digital photography can help you see the world around you more clearly and experience it more deeply. Explore a variety of practices that will open new ways of seeing and being present and connect you more closely with yourself, your environment and your community.

Workshop Description

“One sees clearly only with the heart.”  (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) “The hardest thing about photography is learning to see.” (Galen Rowell)  “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” (Dorothea Lange)  “How you see is what you see. And to see rightly is to be able to be fully present – without fear, without bias, and without judgment.” (Richard Rohr)  “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22) “Despite ourselves, we are drawn out by the beauty in our own backyard.” (Pema Chödron)

This workshop is intended for both beginning and experienced photographers. Participants will need a digital camera (or smartphone or tablet), a working knowledge of their camera, and access to a digital device with basic photo editing capabilities. Participants will be invited to share in a conversation about seeing with the heart and how photography can help them see and experience the world around them more deeply and more clearly. The goal of the workshop is to learn how to slow the mind and open the heart in order to receive, record, edit, and discern more expressive images. Specific topics will include:

  1. Seeing our everyday surroundings with increased (self-)awareness
  2. Developing fresh perceptions of color, pattern, and texture
  3. Learning how to arrange content by framing, simplifying the background, and the rule of thirds
  4. Discovering the beauty of form and space in our immediate environment
  5. Learning the art of visual discernment.

Each day will begin with worship (25 minutes; worship based on silent breath prayer, for example, breathe in “Be still”, breathe out “and know”) and grounding in poetry (20 minutes), followed by a brief illustrated lecture on the principles of contemplative photography and basic photographic composition (20 minutes). Participants will then be given specific photographic assignments to complete on campus (75 minutes). Finally, we will share our experiences and our images with each other and provide positive feedback (25 minutes worship-sharing or one-on-one discussion).

Participants may edit their photographs either during or outside of the scheduled workshop time and will be encouraged to use evenings and early mornings to take additional photographs and to reflect further on their experience of seeing. We will display our favorite images electronically online where they may be viewed by other workshop participants and at a public showing at the Gathering. Participants should be in good physical condition in order to carry out the assignments, which will require a fair amount of walking, though a golf cart may be made available for those needing assistance.

I recommend reading at least one of the following books before arriving at the Gathering: “The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes,” by Andy Karr and Michael Wood (Shambhala Publications, 2011), “Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice,” by Christine Valters Painter (Sorin Books, 2013), “Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind and Heart,” by Julie DuBose (Miksang Publications, 2013), and “see your way to mindfulness,” by David Schiller (Workman, 2016). I also highly recommend these two books on silent prayer: “Finding Your Hidden Treasure: The Way of Silent Prayer,” by Benignus O’Rourke, and “Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community,” by Daniel P. Coleman (the first is more readable and written by an Augustinian friar, the second more scholarly and written by a progressive Christian Quaker). A sampling of my photographs can be viewed online at

Leader Experience

I am a life-long Quaker and photographer, as well as a freelance translator (German to English) and retired foreign language teacher (German and French).  My workshops at the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 Gatherings provided extraordinary opportunities to connect with the wider community of Friends and to share ideas about how to see the world around us with greater clarity and meaning. My Friends Journal article, “Listening with the Eyes,” in the September 2013 issue, together with the photographs by the participants (more photos are available online at, provides an overview of what to expect in my workshop.  I led a one-day version of my workshop at Framingham (MA) Friends Meeting in October 2013 and a weekend workshop on the same theme in April 2015 at Woolman Hill Conference Center in Deerfield, MA. I also gave a three-day workshop at the Early Days of Intermountain Yearly Meeting at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in June 2019.

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