©Revealed™ Photography, 2014

Presence! We all know when someone has it. We also can tell when someone doesn’t have it. But what is IT? I have spent much of my adult life exploring presence, originally as a dancer, then a yoga teacher, and now as a public speaking presence coach and photographer.

While my primary work is now on helping people become more confident and authentic speakers with presence, my photography has given me insights and inspiration into what, in fact, presence is.

©Revealed™ Photography, 2014I have discovered that whatever I deliberately focused my camera on – which could be the most mundane object – seems to acquire a quality of presence in the photographic image. I have begun to call this “revealed” presence – the ordinary becoming extraordinary simply by revealing it through my camera lens.

In my speaking presence coaching work this has led to a new understanding that presence isn’t just something we “have”, but also something we “give”, by turning our attention from ourselves and focusing instead on our audience. We “reveal” their presence by attending to them, letting them know they are important to us, and they in turn ascribe presence to us.

My intention for this blog is to share an image of revealed presence each day. Some days the image will come from something I’ve discovered that day, and on other days I will draw from my photographic archives.

I find that provocative questions can also reveal what is truly important and present to us in the moment and engage us with the photo in a different way, and so each day I couple the photo with a question.

I hope that you will find this a useful way to reflect on the day for yourself just as it is for me.


11 Responses to “About”

  1. Jeremy Nash Says:

    Your eye for simplicity and beauty is astonishing, Carla. I’m reminded to allow myself to notice beauty more through your photographs. (And how I ache to be in such a lovely place where there is all this ready-at-hand beauty). They are a refuge from the newspaper headlines.
    They, and your questions, have us take a few moments out to reflect, and so, at least for those few moments, I feel more here and balanced. Thank you!!

  2. I love your work with presence – the images, the questions. This is so cool and I will share it with others! Kathy

  3. Thank you, Kathy! This whole project was inspired by the Flow Game. Thanks for sharing it with anyone you think might be interested.

  4. Of course – the flow game! Great things come out of that. I shared this with the team I am part of that is planning an Art of Hosting training focused on the personal and incorporating Shamanic Practice. Tenneson Woolf is part of that team and mentioned that he knows you.

    I do a fair bit of work with presencing and believe your work will inspire others around presence. Thank you for this, Kathy

  5. Hi Carla,

    My colleague Naava Frank told me about your blog because of the work that I do in Jewish Spirituality. I love your images. I am curious about what you mean by presence? Is it more or different than mindfulness? What is the source of the ‘presence’ ? Internal? External? Human? Divine?

    Hope you don’t mind these questions.


    Rabbi Jordan Rosenberg



  6. Hello Jordan,
    What a great question! I want to take some time to answer this one because it feels so central to all the work I do, whether it’s my photography, my public speaking presence coaching or my work engaging large groups in meaningful conversations. I’m planning to write something up tonight and tomorrow and should post my answer in the next day or two.

    Thanks so much for commenting and for your question.

  7. Hello Jordan,
    Your question is a deep one and I could probably write an entire book on the subject! I’ll try here to highlight some of my thinking and my experience, but I don’t feel that I can really do the subject justice in this brief reply. My answer is informed by my daily photography practice of presence which is reflected in this blog, as well as my very practical work as a Public Speaking Presence Coach, and as a long-time yoga, tai chi, and meditation practitioner.

    In my experience, presence is a practice that is initiated internally at the individual level but manifests externally through our connection and relationships. When we individually drop into full presence with ourselves and the people around us, we find we are not alone and that we’ve touched into something much larger than ourselves, what I think of as the collective.

    Here are a couple of thoughts at the level of the individual (much of which comes from my work with public speaking clients):

    • Mindfulness is definitely part of it, in that we can’t have presence without attending to what’s present in the moment. But simply having an internal experience of attending to the present moment isn’t enough to have real presence, not the kind of presence that leads to a shared collective experience.
    • I sometimes think about my work with clients as helping them develop a practice of what I call a “relational meditation”. What I mean by this is rather than focusing on our breath or our thoughts as we would in a mindful practice, we instead pay exquisite attention to the connection we are making with the individuals in our audience. It is our awareness of each person and an acknowledgement of their very real presence in our audience that becomes our focus of attention. And, this emphasis on the importance of relationship creates an experience of presence, both for us and for our listeners.
    • So many of the clients that come to me for public speaking coaching are coping with some degree of fear of speaking in front of a group. I’ve learned that this fear primarily results from our feeling separate, alone, isolated. What I’ve found is that when our focus is on connecting with our audience, our sense of isolation departs and the fear begins to dissipate.

    I have distilled what I’ve learned about presence as a public speaking coach into what I call the Seven Crown Jewels of Presence in Speaking, Leading and Life! These were written for people who come to me for speaking coaching but apply to all aspects of life. In my mind they speak to core principles of humanity, humility, authenticity, and service and each of these leads to a sense of presence.

    Beyond my work in public speaking, though, I’ve learned some profound lessons about the idea of collective presence from this photography blog. Probably the most mind-shifting for me is the idea that presence is not something we have. It’s really something we give. The objects and scenes that I photograph are just there. It’s the act of seeing the image and photographing that gives it presence to the viewer. (It’s a little bit like zen koan about the sound of a tree falling in the woods. Is there sound if no one is there to hear it?)

    One of my favorite images posted to this blog very early on was titled Bungee Dilemma. My guess is that not many people would consider bungee cords to have presence. And yet, for me and the many other folks who have interacted with this image over the years, the very act of focusing my attention on these bungee cords has given them a presence that has lasted far longer than the moment when I took the photo.

    “Where you put your attention that’s where energy goes.” And, where there’s energy, there’s presence.

    In the same way, as speakers, leaders, livers of life, when we turn our attention to others and focus on them rather than solely on ourselves, we actually give them presence. The paradox is that they, then, think of us as having presence. When this happens we seem to enter a shared space together that goes far beyond the distinction of me and you. To me this is tapping into the collective and for some people might feel like touching into the Divine.

    I often ask my speaking clients to identify people with presence who have influenced them in a positive way. I then ask them to identify qualities that characterized that presence. In every group, almost universally, someone will give an example of a speaker who they felt was “speaking directly to me”. In a sense, what they are saying is they felt truly seen by the speaker. And, by being seen they see/feel/experience the presence of the speaker.

    To paraphrase Rumi,
    “Out beyond me and you there’s a field. I’ll meet you there.”

    This is what I consider true presence.

  8. Kiran A. Says:

    I just found your blog, and your nature photography is beautiful. Great job :)

  9. Thanks for visiting Kiran, and for commenting! I enjoyed looking at your blog too. Vibrant!

  10. podnumber2 Says:

    Hi – Beth Tener introduced me to your site. I provide a photo of the day, as well. I find it to be a fantastic way to practice mindfulness and now I will work to be conscious of the presence component as well! Thank you! http://podnumber2.wordpress.com/ if you would ilke to see it.

  11. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I loved your site. Particularly the story of your father and your blog’s name. I also liked your photo with the beach ball. It’s nice to “meet” someone else with a similar practice.

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