A beginners’ mind

It was just after my 16th birthday, and my friend Joan and I had jumped on the train to London, each clutching our brand new SLR’s close to our side.

In Covent Garden Joan pointed her camera at the buskers performing. She shot flowers on a stall and pigeons on cobblestones.

I shot the crowd. Tourists with faces creased into laughter. A row of enraptured little schoolboys, eyes wide open, caps lopsided as they watched the performers. All oblivious to my lens.

I loved learning about people.

I loved my new Olympus OM10. (OK I’m ancient)

I loved seeing a print magically come to life in a darkroom. (Including this slightly damaged old shot above, which yes is me at 16)

When you’re a beginner there is an eager openness in your mind which allows you to absorb and process and take on new concepts.

In Zen Buddhism they call it Shoshin, and it means ‘Beginners mind’. To achieve a mindset of learning we must let go of preconceived ideas, knowledge, ego and clutter, and experience old things like new.

If you’re stuck in familiar surroundings (and let’s face it, most of us are right now) it can be hard to feel compelled to shoot. Especially when you’re used to a choice of locations and talent and decent production values.

(Oh and money. There’s that.)

But you really must shoot regardless. It’s one of the most important things that will help you through this crisis.

Try seeing everything as if it were for the first time.

A patch of sunlight on the carpet.

A child’s drawing.

A face pressed up against a window.

I’d love to see where beginners mind takes you. Who knows, you may discover a whole new style, technique or idea. You may fall in love with photography all over again.

Please share your results in my free Facebook Group, and join me for my weekly live Q&A on Thursday. (Weds US/ UK).

Here in New Zealand, almost in week 3 of lockdown, I’m really trying to go Zen at the moment and appreciate every little thing as if it were the first time. It’s a long way from London but it’s inspiring in different ways.


‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

 -Charles Darwin