Katherine (“Katie”) Katsenis from Panos Productions Photography talks to us in episode 9 about stopping to see the world through a different lens, one of compassion. She shares the driving force behind her current fine art photography project, “Mother-Child“, which is grounded in her Buddhist beliefs.
I originally brought Katie on the show to talk about gifting experiences, or items that will last a lifetime. But when we began talking, she really made me think about the compassion that always exists between a mother and her child, that transcends all species and all types of mother-child relationships. As human beings we can all use practice in viewing the entire world through a lens of compassion.
The simple action that we can take after today’s episode is to practice compassion in every moment, even when we see an ant on the sidewalk, or find a spider in the shower. Although this isn’t easy, it will slowly change our lives, and the lives of those around us.
3 Simple Ideas to Try:
- Practice compassion while we’re driving, stopping to breathe when someone makes us angry
- Stop before killing an insect to think, “this could have been my mother”
- When giving gifts, choose an experience, or something timeless
About Our Guest:
Katie Katsenis is a fine art photographer, located in Los Angeles, California. She describes her work as creating showpiece images for modern moms. She photographs motherhood, babies, and children, and currently has an exhibition going on called Mother-Child.
Katie was an elementary school special education teacher and part-time photographer for over 20 years. She found herself being the go-to for all kinds of photos and even filling in for the photographer on “makeup picture day”! So when she retired, photography seemed like a natural transition.
I invited Katie on the show to talk about gifting experiences for Mother’s Day. I think experiences to be shared with our loved ones are a great way to celebrate a birthday or holiday, and treat the earth kindly while doing it. It takes a bit more thought and planning, but avoiding cheap, disposable gifts could be considered priceless when we think of that gift’s impact on the earth.
But as Katie and I began talking about this show, our conversation shifted into a discussion about compassion and seeing and giving love in the world. It was really fun to hear Katie’s ideas of how to cultivate compassion in our lives. And to hear the pull from her Buddhist background.
My Favorite Episode Quote:
“Every single person you look at in the world, when you’re driving to work, or any animal, any ant that you step over, or spider you remove from the shower, has been your parent in some previous life, either as a human or not, for countless life times. So this idea that everyone has been your mother really motivates me to encourage people to see motherhood as the be all of everything.” – Katie Katsenis
From Teacher to Photographer:
Katie tells us about how photography gradually made its way into a second career for her, after she retired from teaching. When her teaching career ended, she didn’t have a plan for what would be next. She says she literally started with buying a camera, not knowing where it would take her. From there she found one class after another, and one painter after another to inspire her. This step by step process led her to the fine art photography that she does now.
Life through the Mother-Child Lens:
Katie’s current passion lies in photographing a mother with her children. She believes there is nothing better, stronger, more sacrificial than being a mom, as animals, or as humans. It amazes her what moms go through carrying a child and then raising a child.
So her goal in the project is to capture some of the elements of the mother-child relationship that may not be the most common, or popular. Frustration, for example, being one of those. She talks about how she has to be present in a session to capture these emotions. And if she’s able to influence a mother to stay present and look at and interact with her child, she’s able to find a good photo in that.
Discovering compassion through the camera:
Every mother has compassion when it comes to her child, even when it doesn’t always feel like it. I found this quote right before the interview that had spoken to me:
“Love and compassion are necessities. They are not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama
I love how this embodies, at least in some way, how animals are deeply connected to us. Katie had mentioned to me that Buddhism influences her work, and particularly this “Mother-Child“ project. (She shares the caveat that she is not a Lama and anyone who wants to learn more about Buddhism should do so from a Lama.) But in general, Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and that any living being on earth, even an ant, has been your parent in a previous lifetime.
Katie shares that it’s hard to capture this Mother-Child relationship in animals, but she does her best to photograph it in the human relationship. She says most moms don’t even understand how compassionate they are. They see themselves as their tasks or what’s wrong, but not in the sacrifice that they give every day.
Cultivating compassion in everyday life:
She shares the quote:
“Religion is compassion.” – Dalai Lama
This philosophy not only drives her work, but the way that she tries to live daily life. She mentions finding compassion in the moment that someone cuts her off at Costco. Or when she’s in a hurry to get to a destination.
If we pause to think of an insect before we kill it, or a rodent we’re trying to remove from our home, we may come up with another more compassionate solution. Most situations are not easily solved. But stopping to pause and give it time and thought may result in a new idea. I found this article on Tricycle that provides an interesting perspective on this.
Another simple idea that Katie shares is to practice cultivating compassion while we drive. Sometimes we have an infinite number of possibilities while behind the wheel to slow down and not get angry at someone who speeds past us, or cuts us off. Or goes too slow! If we pause to take a breath and try to be calm, we’re likely to shift our internal energy, and thus the energy that we put out into the world. Slowly finding this compassion over and over does result in a shift in our lives.
Photographing all types of moms:
Katie photographs all forms of families! She says she hasn’t had a lot of animals in the studio, but she’s definitely not against it. I’m hoping to get in there one day with all four of my kiddos.
If you’re interested in a session, you can contact her with the info below.