a photo study: contemplative photography VIII – texture


Once we establish the discipline of looking and seeing we are free to explore the open dimensions of the phenomenal world. As this orientation becomes more heartfelt, one becomes more attuned to the intimate qualities of contact, communication and natural expression in clear seeing. This brings relaxation and appreciation: the eye is allowed to fall through the world and celebrate this visual communion.

The discipline of looking and seeing cultivates a subtle and profound aesthetic sensibility. While this quality of seeing is genuine and fulfilling there remains a subtle allegiance to an underlying form of contemplative appreciation. The practice of direct perception undercuts this subtle ground and reference point. By completly trusting the unconditional power of the gap of perception one drops reference points and connects with the phenomenal world on its own terms. In direct perception there is no space for doubt or preference. Seeing is believing. With this confidence one enters the play of form and chaos in pure perception. Nothing added; nothing missing: each perception is an image of itself.

~cited: http://www.miksang.org


A Karr & M Wood (The Practice of Contemplative Photography) identify three mind stages of a contemplative photographer:
  1. Connecting with the flash of perspective
  2. Working with visual discernment
  3. Forming the equivalent of what was seen

Forming the equivalent comes into play when one creates an image that reflects what was seen “—nothing more, nothing less.” It requires an intention to remain with the perception connected with as one engages the shutter. Making “sure the choices [depth of field, exposure, and color balance] you make honestly reflect your perception.”

…you have seen the subject clearly, without conceptual filters or discursiveness. You have rested with the perception in visual discernment, without agitation or photographic thinking.

This phase requires the silencing of composition rules/techniques and restraining the impulse to play around with various camera settings. Yes, easier said than done!


Texture is one of the photo assignments Kerr and Wood invites us to connect with as a means to further our awareness of the “flash of perception.” They noted that when we open ourselves to color the experiences are more sudden and intense than when intentionally photographing texture.

The texture assignment was to:
  1. Establish a firm intention just to look for texture.
  2. Slow down and open yourself to “endless details of the surfaces around you.”
  3. Fill the viewfinder with just the texture that “stopped you.”
  4. Keep in mind that visual patterns are visual while texture is tactile.

As I set out on this exercise, silencing a tendency to pre-identify objects of texture—grass, tree bark, mirrors—was, at first, a bit of a struggle. Then I found that when I opened myself to be with a consciousness of seeing and feeling…as if the surface quality that I visually connected with also invited me to touch, a combining of a visual and tactile moment…the experience tended towards mental qualifications of: silky, bubbly, prickly, nubby, fluffy, grainy, gritty, etc. A busy mind is indeed difficult to silence.

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I do enjoy the exchanges of ideas and questions as these exchanges help clarify the nuances of Contemplative Photography. Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.

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