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17 Aug 2023

Rebecca Rowan on photography, connection and the natural world

Rebecca Rowan, founder of Mindful Photography UK, explores how wild places, wellbeing and photography come together to create moments of connection for World Photography Day. 

Rebecca Rowan blue sky

The word connection has really resonated with me, and I wanted to share two special stories of connection that I experienced recently.


I was in a cafe when my tray slid off the chair next to me onto the feet of a fellow tea drinker. We started chatting and then, two hours had passed. We spoke about what it was like to be a mother, we spoke about archaeology and travel and, well, everything! Sadly, she told me she had recently experienced a bereavement. I told her about the process of therapeutic photography, describing it as a way to process thoughts and feelings in a safe environment where you feel in control and able to express yourself. She had such warmth and was so encouraging about my work.

Rebecca Rowan pic 1

Connecting again

Another notable meeting was a couple of days later when I was in the Photographer’s Gallery in London and a man approached me as I was perusing the vast array of 120 roll film on display. He said he was watching me from a distance and saw my face light up as I traced the film with my fingers. He couldn’t understand how I knew one from the other. We spoke for an age about photography. I told him about the Mindful Photography process, where we have no judgement or concerns about skill, it is just about slowing down, looking and observing. He told me that he felt a little intimidated about photography but said he would give it a go and the informal and inclusive approach was something that interested him.  

I wondered why suddenly all these random connections were happening to me; was I just lucky that everyone wanted to hear about my work this week?

Exploring connection and disconnection

When I told my current client groups my stories about my intense conversations, I asked them to verbalise how connection and disconnection felt to them. We realised that connection can take many forms: connection with our minds and our bodies; a connection in relationships; at work; in society; in our street, or in nature.  They told me when they felt disconnected, they felt lonely, isolated, judged, mis-understood, dark, angry, unworthy, and afraid to engage. They found themselves losing their very sense of self. However, when they felt connected, there were no barriers. They felt part of something.

feather and shell rebecca rowan

Then, it occurred to me: it was me who had changed. Through sharing the benefits of therapeutic photography, I feel so much more connected with the people around me. I am looking up, my eyes are wide open, and I am radiating a warm, positive connection. This is where my connections with other people had come from!

In our session, I gave the group a task: show me an image which illustrates how you feel when you are disconnected then show me another image where you feel connected.

One group decided to set up an image that showed everyone on the same level with no barriers, all communicating in a positive way. They then asked one man to step off to illustrate the sensation of falling off balance and not feeling connected and supported - of feeling more vulnerable.

rebecca rowan connection 2

In another group, one participant illustrated their image via the petals on a rose bush: “Here you see the petals connected, and then you see the petals disconnected. This is how we feel when we are disconnected: alone, vulnerable, down, dying and sinking.”

rebecca rowan irina connection

The groups then went on to fill the afternoon capturing positive images around connection. They all represented images of connection in nature and said that when they were outside, walking and observing the natural world enhanced their mood.

  • Have you got any images that illustrate your positive connection with the great outdoors? Share them with us by tagging the John Muir Trust and @MindfulPhotographyUK!
  • Mindful Photography UK works with charities and organisations to enable photographers, regardless of experience, to share images and improve their well-being.
  • Explore more about the connection between wild places and wellbeing in our Wild and Well Repository.