Babysitting Photos pt.3 Symmetrical Constructions

Babysitting Photographs Studies VII
Part III : Symmetrical Constructions

Click on images to enlarge
Part I : Sleepy Baby Stroller Views and Dreamscapes
Part II : On the Ground Floor Babysitting Photographs 
Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs
Part IV : Commentaries & Epilogue

I have characterized the photographs in parts one and two of this project as little epiphanies of seeing, as preparatory studies for something greater, something larger.  They are for the most part quiet pictures reflecting the sleepy, meditative atmosphere in which I was photographing. The symmetrical photographs, on the other hand, are large images, and they can be rather dramatic and imposing images at times, though they certainly are no less mysterious than the straight Babysitting photographs with which they were constructed.

All 15 of the symmetrical photographs included here were made with images taken while my wife and I were babysitting Claire; seven of the 15 were made with images published in parts one and two of this project.  I have provided links under the titles of those seven images.  I encourage you to study both versions of the image, the straight source image and its symmetrical transformation, and compare the differences in your response to them.  I have personally found that I am not only surprised at the changes the source image has undergone, but often I am astonished at the revelatory nature of my experience.

The symmetrical process is pretty simple: I duplicate the source image and then seamlessly conjoin the two images such that they mirror each other above and below.  Then I duplicate this pair of vertically conjoined images, place them side by side so that they perfectly mirror each other horizontally, and then I seamlessly conjoint them with each other.  What you have, finally, is a symmetrical image in which the four repeated, mirroring images meet and conjoin at the very center-point of the four-fold construction.

The source image undergoes not only a visual transformation, but as I have already indicated there is also a different radiance of meaning in the symmetrical image.  It's as if the meaning that existed in the source image becomes dramatically amplified and projected outward when it is transmuted into a four-fold symmetrical image.  Something altogether new, mysterious and "larger than life" is manifested and unveiled by the symmetrical transformation.


When I contemplate a symmetrical photograph, I can eventually reach a point of concentration that allows me to single out its source image and place my full attention on it for a time.  Then as I hold that image in my mind, I shift my attention back to the symmetrical image.  I then strive to hold both the images--the source photograph, and the symmetrical photograph--simultaneously in my awareness.

In this dual mode of perception I inhabit two Imaginal worlds at the same time.  And, as I become comfortable with this contemplative experience I eventually transition into yet another "Imaginal world" that exists between the other two.  This "third" world is timeless, spaceless, silent, beyond description.  It's the world that exists in the center-point of the symmetrical image where the four repeated and mirroring source images conjoin into a visual unity.  The experience of being in this Imaginal space of  unity feels like a merging into an essential "oneness" of being; it's a feeling of having been put-back-together again, made whole.

This epiphany of meaning, this experience of the Unity of Being, is also accompanied by an experience of expansion, of having transcended the linear, rational limitations of space.  This expansive feeling is also associated with the feeling of opening, or perhaps the feeling of having been turned inside-out.  In this experiential mode of being I feel alone, and wholly contented; my mind has become still; I'm enveloped in silence.  The Sufi and Yogic saints might say I've entered the realm of the heart, the very center of being.   This experience is perhaps the richest gift one could ever receive from the process of contemplating an image.


I sometimes experience another kind of Intermediate world when I perform the ritual-like process of making symmetrical photographs.  As I witness the source image transitioning into a four-fold, symmetrical image, I find myself imaginatively between the world of the source image, an image that represents the appearance of the outer-world, and the transformed, abstract, interior world of the symmetrical image.  My personal experience of this transformation of the image is similar to that which I have characterized earlier, as being turned inside-out.

Henry Corbin's Interworld of the Soul
In his book Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth Henry Corbin writes about an ancient Iranian world view that involves a plane of existence known as the "Eighth Climate," an interworld which "conjoins time and eternity, space and trans-space."  This is, he says, a transcendent, Imaginal world "alive with the magical energy of sensory images conjoined with their inner-world essential archetype-Images."  His exposition on the interworld especially fascinates me because he is essentially defining a phenomenon that parallels my conception and my experience of the symbolic photograph

In this Iranian world view there is a hierarchy of being arranged in a series of universes, all of which end finally in our terrestrial Earth.  Corbin says the idea of the "mirror" and the idea of the "epiphany" are two modes of perception that dominate this world.

In the Eighth Climate it is understood that all activity is psychic and takes place in a barzakh, or interval. "In order to grasp the Image in its absolute reality," writes Corbin, "it is necessary to have . . . an organ of vision which is part of the absolute activity of the soul, and which corresponds to our Imagination vera."  This "organ of vision" is what Corbin calls "active Imagination."

"In this intermediate world" continues Corbin, "there are Heavens and Earths, animals, plants, and minerals, cities, towns, and forests.  Now, this means, in effect that if things corresponding to all these are visible and seen in this world, here on this terrestrial Earth, it is because ultimately what we call physis and physical is but the reflection of the world of the Soul."

This world of the Soul, this "eighth climate," is what the 12th century Iranian Sufi mystic-scholar Ibn 'Arabi called the Earth of True Reality.  In this Earth of Truth  ". . . all realities exist in the state of Images, and these Images are a priori or archetypal; in other words," writes Corbin, "[these images] are themselves in the meditation of the soul whose world they are."

Corbin continues: "The way of seeing the Earth and the way of seeing the soul are the very same thing, the vision in which the soul perceives itself . . ."   And, then he writes: "Here is the point: in the whole of the universes of this Earth of Truth, God has created for each soul a universe corresponding to that soul.  When the mystic contemplates this universe, it is himself that he is contemplating."

This Earth of Truth is, says Corbin, "the place of flowering of symbols".  It is the place of visionary recitals, the place of prayer in dialogue, the place of divine epiphanies.  It is this intermediate world "that helps the soul to be at last with itself and in itself."  "Every form in which these epiphanies are clothed, as well as every form in which man sees himself in dreams or in the intermediate state between waking and sleep, or in that state of active meditation which is a state of waking while the senses are asleep--all this belong to the body of this Earth of Truth."

I will conclude this brief discussion of the interworld with the following statmement by Corbin that summarizes everything very succinctly, and again, helps to further clarify what I mean by a photograph that functions as a symbol: "This 'intermediate world' is the world through which spirits are embodied, and bodies spiritualized.'  It may be said that each function is the reason for the other.  The intermediate world is accessible only to the active Imagination, which is at the same time the founder of its own universe and the transmuter of sensory data into symbols.  By this very transmutation a resurrection of material bodies into subtle or spiritual bodies takes place."  Henry Corbin, from his book Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth

One House : Seeking Grace
Each weekday morning that we were asked to babysit Claire, my wife and I would drive thirty-five minutes from our house to Claire's and her parents' house.  Then, in the evenings, when our son and his wife returned home from work, we would drive back to our house.  I would often dream through the night of babysitting.  In the morning, after breakfast, Gloria and I would drive from our house to their house for another day of babysitting with Claire. 

The houses we inhabit are a kind of universe, each one a complete world within itself that both embodies and reflects its occupants' minds and souls.  Spending a lot of time in another's house can become a challenge, and I have found that making photographs of a new place is a very good way for me to "make friends" with it.

Often, after a fresh snowfall, I would long to be outside in the fresh snow and the winter light making photographs. When I was babysitting and couldn't leave the house I found a compromise: I took winter pictures through the windows and doors of the house (see Images #1, 2, 3, 4).  Sometimes I would open the front door, or the kitchen's sliding door, so that Claire could directly experience the silence of the new fallen snow, the coldness of the air; and I would help her grab a handful of snow so she could touch it, feel it, taste it, and watch it turn into water.

I recently found a published talk by my Siddha Yoga Meditation Master, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda entitled One House For You and And The Lord.  In the talk she quotes a Sufi poet-saint who writes about the presence of the "Beloved" in the things of the world.  Each thing the poet's eyes turn to functions as "a mirror in which I see the reflection of my own heart."  At the end of the poem the image of abiding in "only one house" is invoked. 

Gurumayi talks about how the impure ego and the mind separates us from our heart, our inner "treasure."  She says the world is a play of the mind, and when we make the effort to seek grace our mind merges into the full awareness of the heart, the pure ego, the perfect Supreme I-Consciousness.

My creative process in photography has become a form of yogic practice, a way of seeking grace.  Making and contemplating symbolic photographs silences my mind and opens my heart.  Each photograph that functions for me as a symbol becomes a "house" in which I merge and abide with my divine Self.

I will close with excerpts from Gurumayi's talk, One House For You and And The Lord:

Everyone has a good heart.  There's no one in this world who has a bad heart, an evil heart.  The heart is always beautiful, the heart is always clear, the heart is always pure.  It's the most sublime thing anyone could ever own.  And everyone has this wealth, this treasure.

Nevertheless, there are the thieves called mind and ego; they have different names, depending on the situation, and they cause trouble.  But when you put forth self-effort, they can't rule your life. 

This whole world is a play of the mind.  Each action, each situation, each circumstance is a play of someone else's mind.  Think about it.  Start with your own family, then think about your society, then your country, then the whole world.  Each action, each situation, each circumstance in your life is a play of the mind.  If it's not your mind, then it's someone else's.

When we seek divine grace, our mind merges into the Supreme.  Then whatever happens is for the highest goal.  We live in the awareness of Consciousness all the time. 

As a Sufi saint said in his song, 

O My Beloved!  Wherever I look, I see You.
Wherever my eyes turn, 
They meet a mirror in which I see the reflection
Of my own heart.
You are in the gleaming edge of a sword,
You are in the brilliance of sight.
You are in devoted salutations,
And You are also in the pain of separation.
I found You in every form as I desired.
You are in water,
You are in the darkness of the night.
Your vibration pervades the entire cosmos.
Although things appear to be diverse,
They're all a part of You alone, O my Beloved.
This life, truly speaking, is only a reflection of You.
. . . 
Although I myself am the Absolute,
Living alone in the abode of this universe,
As long as I did not know my own Self,
I was caught in the cycle of ignorance.
Because of that, I made the distinction
Between the individual soul and God.
However, through Your grace, O my Beloved,
Now I know You and I have only one house to abide in.

When you have the experience of perfect I-consciousness, you know there is just one house for you and the Lord.  In one house both live, in one house both share, in one house both merge into each other.   Gurumayi Chidvilasanada, Darshan magazine #64   

~  Babysitting Photographs  ~ 

Image #2, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs    Hanging Icicles, as viewed through the kitchen's sliding door & screen

Image #3, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Green Plants and Snow. as viewed from the front window 

Image #4, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs   Winter Sunlight and Shadows projected onto the front room window 

 (see Part 1, Image #15) 

Image #5, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Ice Crystals  formed on the front door window 

Image #6, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs      Tree Shadows on laundry room wall  

 (see Part 1, Image #16)

Image #7, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Sunlight and Shadows on the netting walls of the Pack'N Play   

(see Part 1, Image #18)    

Image #8, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs        Swivel Chair and Shadow       

 (see Part 1, Image #19)

Image #9, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Couch Pillows        

(see Part 1, Image #10)

Image #10, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs        Sunlight on Ceiling    

(see Part 1, Image #4)

Image #11, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Mirror In A Corner   

(see Part II, Image #8)

Image #12, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs      Wall Decoration 

Image #13, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       House Plant and Light Shapes

Image #14, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Artificial Flowers on Electric Piano

Image #15, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       Opened, Seeded Pomegranate on Kitchen Counter  

Image #1, Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs       
Interior Images :  Claire's Toys
Click on image to enlarge


This project page was completed and posted 
on my Welcome Page in the 
"Recently Added" section
May, 2016


Click on images to enlarge
Part I : Sleepy Baby Stroller Views and Dreamscapes
Part II : On the Ground Floor Babysitting Photographs 
Part III : Symmetrical Babysitting Photographs
Part IV : Commentaries & Epilogue

Related Links:

The Studies Projects     
Here is the list of projects that belong together under the Studies category.  The projects are listed from the earliest originating project to the present.

Studies 1994-2000
Studies II : Monk's Quirky Music 1994-2000
Studies III: Color Photographs 2006 - June 2013
Still Life Studies IV 2013
The Creative Process Studies V 2014
The Space Between Color and Black&white Studies VI 2014
The Babysitting Photographs Studies VII 2016

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.