The Practice of Contemplative Photography
by Andy Karr and Michael Wood
As some of you may know, I am a bit of an amateur photographer. I came acrossed this book a year or two ago when I was browsing the Shambhala website, looking at what books they had upcoming. I was sent a digital copy of this book for review, but decided right away to buy it. This is huge. Other than my school books, I haven’t bought a brand new book in years. But this was extraordinary from the first images I saw. Plus, it’s a photography book. You need to hold this thing in your hand.
But it would be wrong to call this just a photography book, or just a book aimed at photographers. All students of Buddhism could appreciate this book. And that’s because contemplative photography isn’t about photography, it’s about seeing. It is a practice that directs our awareness away from conceptual thinking, and focuses it into an art form. From the book:
The practice of contemplative photography connects us with this nonconceptual awareness and strengthens that connection through training. The practice itself has three parts, or states. First we learn to recognize naturally occurring glimpses of seeing and the contemplative state of mind. Next we stabilize that connection through looking further. Finally we take photographs from within that state of mind.
The pictures alone in this book are worthy of any coffee table, certainly. But when a closer look is taken, the images inspire and help you to focus on the ordinary in extraordinary ways. I can’t reccomend this book enough. Again, this book is not just for photographers, but for everyone who wishes to see clearly.
But for the photographers out there, the book offers five different “assignments” to help in this art form. I’ve included some of the photos I’ve taken below for each different assignment.
If you’re looking for more on contemplative photography, please visit the following sites:
Seeing Fresh – a website set up as sort of an extension of the book. There are discussions happening there, as well as a place where you can upload your own photos for the different assignments. I have a few photos up there too.
Shambhala Archives – Chögyam Trungpa’s photography – a collection of the late master’s work
Measart – a great photographer that has some very vivid contemplative photography
Dharma/Arte - A Brazillian (site is in both Portuguese and English) site that blends art, creativity, and dharma. A wonderful project.
108 Zen Books Tumblr blog – another dharma practitioner’s artful tumblr blog
Seer Seeing Seen – my friend Shane’s tumblr blog with some great photography
Of course, there’s my tumblr blog where I post my photos and other dharma tidbits as well.
And on October 15th, there will be a live broadcast on the web with author Andy Karr. Click here for more information on that.