Nancy Rotenberg and "Enlightenment"

11th October 2011
As many of you know, Nancy Rotenberg passed away at the end of August. She was a huge inspiration for all who had the good fortune of being her students. She was very influential in my photographic life as well.

She was known for teaching amazing photography classes. Recently Rick Holt and I were talking about a presentation she would put on addressing "Courage". For those of you who have seen it, you know that this theme went to the very core of her being.

I e-mailed Nancy after a class I took several years ago and we struck up a friendship. One of the more salient issues for me was when we talked about about photography being one (of many) paths to enlightenment. To be open to the possibility of finding something to photograph that moves you and to be able to compose it in a way that moves others is a self-less act.

In order to be aware that such a shot exists you need to be able to live outside of ego. In order to gauge that there is something there that stirs you emotionally, you need to be in touch with a wide array of emotions. And in order to frame the shot such that you take into account the ability of the viewer to be able to comprehend the message requires you to be able to put yourself into their shoes. What incredible courage it takes to move outside of "self", to be in touch with your feelings and to be willing to open to empathy.

That was the world Nancy lived in. Her commitment to that was her strongest suit. And it was a self-perpetuating action because the joy she got to see in the faces of her students as they stepped into this courageous world whose door she held open paid her in rich dividends. It is, I believe, what is at the core of what defines us as "humans" and is the reason our species developed the consciousness that we have.

Namaste, Nancy. Namaste.