It is always interesting to ponder the notion of life as a journey. A journey of such depths that it can be described as a psychological negotiation of time and space that peaks and troughs in a variety of emotional states. What is also interesting is the idea that each day or moment is also a journey. A series of intertwining journeys that happen within the major journey of our lives.
In April I experienced one such journey whilst taking part in ‘The Art of Seeing’, a photography masterclass led by the esteemed photographer Peter Sanders. The event was held in Granada Spain and centred on photographing the beautiful settings within the environment. This experience was of monumental significance to me on many levels and served as a reprieve from an incredibly hectic schedule. But the significant part was the opportunity to enjoy the companionship of like-hearted people and the beauty of our Islamic heritage. And there is more. This served as the backdrop to a time of reflection and witnessing which on one level enabled the taking of better photographs but on another, facilitated a period spiritual introspection.
As the organiser Faisal explains below, Art Of Seeing is a journey of many aims. But, for me it was an opportunity to use art as a means to a greater level of spiritual realisation.
“Art of Seeing is so much more than a photography course. Over and above the superb technical help that is available, I was pleasantly surprised by the spiritual and philosophical aspects of photography that Sidi Peter and the other instructors bring to the fore. The emotional nourishment that comes from escaping the daily grind and being amongst the most beautiful group of like-minded people is something that will stay with me for a long time.” Mohammad – AOS Participant in Granada
How did Art Of Seeing come about?
Although the first Art Of Seeing was in 2012, the initial idea came about nine years ago.
I’ve always been into photography and following Peter Sanders amongst other artists. I have always had this feeling that art is an important way to develop oneself and also to bring a message across.
So when I met Peter Sanders personally in 2009 I said I would like to learn from him because I think he has a very powerful way of bringing a message across through his photographs.
And not only did I want to learn from him, but I thought it would be very egotistical of me to just think of myself knowing back then that there are a lot of other people who would also like to learn. So, I posed the question to him to find out if I could organise these journeys for others to benefit from. He was very happy about that and so together we created a platform where art has become a way to express yourself, learning more about yourself and letting yourself be able to transform through the process which in this case is photography.
How would you describe what you offer?
What we offer is a unique combination of companionship, art, academic learning
and a hands-on way of becoming the type of person you need to be to take the photographs or make the art you want to in order to get your message across. And we believe the best way to do this is through travel as this takes you outside of your comfort zone and makes you more vulnerable. This unknown space of experience gives more opportunity to excel and offers a greater chance to become a master. I think we are all traditional thinkers and recognise that learning from a master is always the best option if you want to develop your own artistic skills.
What can participants expect to gain from their experience?
It’s always hard to say what they take away because it’s so different for each person but I think that if they already take away that you know they have come to a place where there are like-minded people or people at least on the same journey.
And then knowing that they are out there, as a family of like-minded people that for me is so valuable.
Because these are the connections that are made during the journey we have, the connections that stay there and you know even grow after those trips. When the journeys come again and people come back, it is these connections that we believe are so powerful. And obviously we believe the photographer who will come will become a better photographer. It happens all the time, but basically, we believe this is about becoming a better person and having a good connection with other people. That in the long run will be the most important thing to come out of Art Of Seeing.
Where do you see AOS going from here?
We have done nine AOS journeys so far. We have been to Turkey and Morocco many times and have just been to Granada for the first time. In October we will be going to Pakistan insha-Allah.
The Art of Seeing is really unique. I haven’t come across a similar trip, be it photography or any other medium. There is no such thing. So, I am very proud to be able to be the person organising this with the great team I have, thank God. I am just hoping we can continue the frequency of the trips we do and go to many other places in the world. The world really is our oyster and, God willing, we hope to do this more often.
“I found Art of Seeing Granada Spain to be inspiring and supportive. The locations were breathtakingly beautiful, and the daily schedule was maximised for our learning and enjoyment. This is my second Art of Seeing Journey and one walks away with the feeling that one has gained access to, and credibility among, a highly creative, sensitive and spiritually aligned community.“ Murtaza; AOS Participant in Granada & Morocco