… it's sort of a photography sketchbook …
Bergman Park, Jamestown NY
NIce shot and title! Great use of limited DOF.
What a beautiful, simple image! Thank you for sharing it.
I am trying to understand what contemplative photography is and how to practice it. I am a photographer and a Buddhist, but find that when I take pictures I am overtaken by a ‘desire’ to grasp at image making and capture what I see it my head rather than what is there. I have the Michael Wood and Andy Karr book, so perhaps I need to work my way through it in a mindful way. But to date I have found what they are describing to be very elusive to understand.
Could you share with us how you came to mindful photography and how you practise it?
When I read the Wood/Karr book, it was as if they were describing the approach I already had toward photography. Not always, of course. Sometimes I went out with the intent to illustrate something new I was learning, or make images to promote the Nature Center where I work, or capture a memory at a family party. But often, when I walk, I simply let the world present me with interesting things to see. If I have my camera with me, I attempt to capture it and when I get home to “form the equivalent” of what I was experiencing in that moment.
I went to your blog and found this post: http://wordscene.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/beer/. To me, these photographs embrace the essence of Contemplative Photography. What were you feeling when you took these? What were you thinking? Did you go out that day to take pictures of clouds and boats and rocks? Or did these compositions simply present themselves to you?
You might already be practicing Contemplative Photography and don’t even realize it.
Thanks for your feedback.
On the pictures from Beer, I went out with the intention of taking pictures and, as I had been there several times before, I knew the sort of pictures that I might take. All the pebble pictures involved me moving pebbles and putting them onto rocks with more interesting backgrounds, so I wasn’t really capturing what was there but creating my own picture from the elements that existed on the beach.
I guess what I am struggling with is this: is Contemplative Photography capturing what is already there (like photographing objets trouves on a beach) or is it setting up the shot (eg moving stuff around, de-cluttering the viewfinder to create the shot)? Where does authenticity in this type of photography lie?
When you refer to “get[ting] home to “form the equivalent” of what I was experiencing in that moment”, are you referring to post processing? I thought that was not what Contemplative Photography is about, but this maybe my very limited understanding!
I can’t speak for the authors of the book or what their approach is. For me, photography – from shooting to processing – can be a meditative exercise. There is nothing wrong with an intentional approach, which I utilize frequently. Sometimes, though, I just go for a walk with my camera. Time slips away as I shoot. Troubles slip away. Nothing exists except this moment. Do I sometimes rearrange objects to make a more pleasing, uncluttered composition? Yes, of course.
For me the practice of Contemplative Photography is powerful because of the way it puts me in the present moment. I’m not thinking about printing, matting, and selling this image I’m about to make. I’m not thinking how this will look on a blog post or if it will help illustrate a point I need to make in a newspaper article. I’m simply noticing something and trying to capture the moment of perception for no particular reason.
Later, with the images on my computer screen, I once again enter a zone of timelessness. The present moment is now about remembering the moment of perception and manipulating the onscreen image to match my memory. (I know that seems like a paradox, that the present moment is a memory of the past. But I am truly present in this moment as I process the image. Does that make any sense at all?) I may crop out distracting elements, or adjust the levels so the light and exposure are true to my memory.
This is what the contemplative approach is for me. There are forums on the authors’ website where you can discuss it with others, including the authors.
Thank you for your questions. In answering them, I find clarity.
Thank you for your very helpful response.
This is a great discussion Jennifer. Thanks for asking me to chime in. I share your view on contemplative photography practice and the post-processing aspect of forming the equivalent.
I would say that the essence of the contemplative approach is working with sense perceptions and the contemplative state of mind. This contrasts with subject-oriented, imagination-oriented, and craft-oriented approaches to photography. It is a method for developing deep appreciation for seeing and our own existence.
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a place for me to post creative experiments, reflections about the creative process, and notes about things I'm learning.
The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. - Dorothea Lange
The original self is a seed of wondrous possibility and reeks with pleasure. - Thomas Moore, from the preface of his book Original Self
The Practice of Contemplative Photography by Michael Wood and Andy Karr
Seeing Fresh - website by the authors of the above book
Steal Like an Artist
by Austin Kleon
Austin Kleon's Website