As most photography books address the techniques only, we were intrigued by "The practise of contemplative photography - seeing with fresh eyes", by Andy Karr and Michael Wood. EAGER plunged into a true contemplative experiment.
Everyone is able to watch, it is the seeing part that is a profession in itself. Can one learn such a thing by book?
"Creativity is something to be uncovered, not something to be wished for", state the authors- uttering complete trust in your capabilities. The book bursts of pictures which are deceptively simple. Indisputable proof of the mastering of the art of true seeing. This soberness precisely is often o so hard to capture. According to the authors this way of photographing is all about appreciating things for what they are. We translate this for ourselves to: to go beyond watching and start observing.
The book first explains what contemplative photography is, and continues to tell you how you could get down to work with it. Because learning to see is - we couldn't agree more- all about practising. And practising some more!
The first step is to separate perception from conception: obervations from ideas (reading for exapmle is all about conception. You focus on what the text tells you, you don't see the shape of individual letters).
Within three steps you can get to contemplative photography:
1. connecting with the flash of perception
2. working with visual discernment, and
3. forming the equivalent of what you've seen.
The excersizes to get to these flashes of perception come from the Budist mindfulness. The photographic assignments that follow are clear and inspiring, just as most of the accompanying pictures.
Part of us protests when we read the very strict directives. Does it not fit us, or are we simply not ready for it yet? The way it is presented, contemplative photographing appears to be the only true form. That statement is way too strong in our oppinion. We love conceptual photography for example. There is a time and a moment for everything. At the same time we cannot conclude otherwise than that on the other hand the results towards which Karr and Wood steer are very much the way we like things.
Not surprisingly, for we have considerable attention for our surroundings and therefor we know what an enrichment the step from watching towards seeing can bring you. And so this book encourages us to think on a complete different level. Are we Budist without knowing it, or is it not about the way to get to the point of seeing, but all about the seeing in itself?
We think the latter. There are more ways to achieve the same results. This book is a good and inspiring guide for any (starting) photographer who wants to learn to see things differently. These three pictures we made in the process of reading this book. We are looking forward to your results already!
Photos © Jessica van der Burg
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