a photo study: contemplative photography III – hindrances

A. Kaplan (Jewish Meditation, New York, 1958) noted that when one is in a meditative state, one has obtained the ability to turn off the faint after-images that are constantly with us and interfere with seeing objects with total clarity. He noted that when one is able “to turn off the spontaneous self-generated images . . . the beauty of the flower . . . seen in these higher states of awareness is indescribable [and] appears to radiate beauty.”

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 The possibilities of perception are limitless, and clear seeing is joyful  …we get caught up in cascades of internal dialogue and emotionality. Immersed in thoughts, daydreams, and projections, we fabricate our personal versions of the world and dwell within them like silkworms in cocoons.  ~A Karr & M Wood (cited: The Practice of Contemplative Photography)

Hindrances to Receptivity  (H Zehr, Contemplative Photography)
Many aspects of our lives and habits hinder a mindful approach to the world.

  • An acquisitive, aggressive approach to photography
  • Preoccupation with technique or with the technical side of photography
  • Preconceptions and pre-established rules about what to photograph and how to compose
  • A discriminating or judging attitude that constantly labels, categorizes, and elevates ourselves.
  • Concern about the approval and disapproval of others or about what some ‘authority’ has said.
  • Perfectionism and/or a goal orientation, over-concern about an end product
  • An appreciation for the extraordinary and a devaluing of the ordinary
  • Being so used to the world around us that we take it for granted
  • Over-reliance on the ‘head’ and on the intellect rather than on initiation and feeling
  • Preoccupation with ourselves: too much self-consciousness or self-criticism
  • Lack of spontaneity; an obsession with prediction and planning
  • A need to be in control of the process and to impose one’s concept and viewpoint
  • An intolerance for unidentifiable or unknowable

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Knowledge can be an obstacle, and we are reminded that truth can only be found in life, and not in the accumulation of knowledge…If our mind is burdened by worry, suffering, confusion, anger, or strong views, then it is very hard for us to practice mindfulness, concentration, and insight and look deeply into ourselves and into reality. Our mind must be free from views, preconceptions, and afflictions if we are to see ~Thích Nhất Hạnh (The Other Shore)

Generally we are unaware of these current of mental activity; and it is hard to distinguish what we see from from what we think about. ~A Karr & M Wood (The Practice of Contemplative Photography)

“Photography can be used to help distinguish the seen from the imagined, since the camera registers only what is seen. It does not record mental fabrications. …we are often surprised to find that our photographs did not show what we thought we were shooting

“In contemplative photography the camera’s literalness is uses as a mirror to reflect your state of mind . It shows when you shot what you saw—what actually appeared—and when you shot what you imagined. When a properly exposed photograph faithfully replicates your original perception; you saw clearly. When your original perception is masked in the photograph by shadows, reflections, or other extraneous things you didn’t notice, you were imagining. Clear seeing produces clear, fresh images.

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“Concepts about pictorial techniques can further constrict your vision. Trying to see the world through the rule of thirds to create good composition, or shooting very early or very late in the day because the light will be warm, or, playing with exposure and color balance to make the image more dramatic, turns photographers away from things as they are, and toward their thoughts about how they want them to appear. This separates them from the immediacy of what they experience.” ~A Karr & M Wood (The Practice of Contemplative Photography)

Contemplative Photography Exercise

Consciously or unconsciously, we have all learned many rules about when and how to photograph. These limit our ability to be open to new possibilities

  • Think of some of the rules reviewed in past “a photo study” posts or assumptions you have made about what and when you should photograph. For example: rule of thirds, rule of space, rule of odds, don’t photograph during mid day.
  • Create a list of these rules/should do or not do.
  • Make a series of photographs in which you consciously break as many of these rules, and in as many ways, as you can.
  • Reflect on your images.
    Do your photographs suggest that the ‘rules’ were worth taking seriously? What happened when you did not? Were there any surprises? What do they suggest about how you may photograph in the future? Do any of the hindrances impact your creativity?

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I am excited about this phase of my photo journey. Yet, my identified hindrances, silencing composition/technical rules and should do/should not do will be a challenge after the investment of time, energy, and mental ‘focus’ that has thus far directed this photo study project.

Am looking forward to reading your throughs and seeing the images you created after being freed from your hindrances.   Please tag with #aphotostudy.

8 replies to “a photo study: contemplative photography III – hindrances

  1. I was reading about contemplative photography today. Your essay extends the ideas I was considering even further. I like the idea of unpicking the photographic ‘rules’ and entering a more meditative state when taking photos. You have used some excellent photos to illustrate the points you make. Your challenge fits with where I want to take my own photography (though I still tend to get seduced by vistas). I will see if I can come up with any photos that are more meditative.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Suzanne. I find contemplative photography to be intriguing and decided to explore this genre in tiny steps over the next couple of months. I do hope to hear your thoughts and see your images as I wander in and out, over and under theory and application.

      1. I agree about it being a slow exploration. I wanderr iin and out of it too. Thank you ffor yyourr inspiration and insight about it. I will let you know where my photographic meditations lead me.

  2. I found this post a little hard to follow or may be the depthof this knowledge is beyond my ability to understand. I shall read it again and see if I understand it totally.

    1. Rupali, I have several books that I have had to read a number of times…and yet, I am not sure if I understand what the authors had written. Actually, I just finished my fourth reading of one book. It may be that my writing isn’t clear or a jumble of quotes. If so, I apologize.

      1. I am sure your ability is much better than my understanding. I need some more time and patience to undertand the subject.
        Thank you for your patience Brenda.

  3. I love your stuff. I never realized how beautiful photos could be taken with this term and objects such as this. I had to follow. Thank you for seeing photography “outside the box” since I have never thought or discovered this prior.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to visit and for the reminder to reconnect with contemplative photography…as I’ve been rather distracted over the past few days.

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