Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Contemplative Photography - Two Viewpoints...

   When you look up contemplative photography on the internet you will often find the term "Miksang" on the list of your results.  I would like to muse in this post about my perception of the term and how it relates, or not, to my own form of contemplative photography.

   To say you are a contemplative photographer is a little like saying  you are an abstract painter.  One immediately asks, "What kind?" Contemplative photography, like abstract art, is an umbrella term - it shelters many manifestations of the concept.  I began thinking about this idea by looking at the word itself.  "Contemplation" means to look deeply at something...as an act of heightened perception.  It also means to "reflect upon" or consider thoughtfully, an idea.  For me, a contemplative photographer does the former as she makes her image and the later when she looks at the image afterwards.

   Miksang is a Tibetan word meaning "good eye".  The Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography defines it this way;

"Miksang, at its most basic level is concerned with uncovering the truth of pure perception."

   Miksang is based on the Shambhala and Dharma Art teachings of the late meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche; more specifically, by his teachings on the nature of perception.  Now, I must say, I've never taken a Miksang workshop and therefore my musings are just that - general thoughts about what I've read of the technique.  It seems a most interesting way to look at the world and a disciplined way to fine tune visual perception.  The photograph on the left is from my "Picturing St. John" series and comes close, at least in my opinion, to a "miksang type" image. On my website I have a folio entitled "Simplicities"...this is my term for the semi- abstract images I sometimes make that are mostly about line and shape.  They are photographs that are the result of my focusing on purely formal issues and less on the contemplative aspect of my camera work...being the "photographer" and not the "contemplative".

   The Miksang inspired images I've seen on-line are usually close-up studies that are elegantly simple.  They are beautifully clean and almost minimalist in nature but contemplative photography for me is as much about the reflection after the photograph is made as it is about the visual perception needed to make the image in the first place.  With all due respect, I would call Miksang "perceptual photography" rather than contemplative photography. It is all about the way you perceive your world and not about how those perceptions inform your understanding of larger and more elemental ideas.  Learning to see clearly and thoughtfully is only the first step...without the reflection part you are just creating interesting, beautifully designed photographs which is not a bad thing but it's not contemplative photography, at least as I define the term.



1 comment:

Bill DeLanney said...

Thanks for this post (and all the others)Very interesting. I always thought my images were very "contemplative photographs" but now I'm not sure. I don't consider them abstract at all. More like...just coming from the heart. Maybe they are "just me" images and not "contemplative" at all.