Sunday, December 30, 2012

Living on the Edge...

The tower at the Abbey
   Today I leave for a 3 day retreat to Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Massachusetts.  I've never been one to party the night away on New Year's Eve so this retreat offers me a more contemplative way to ring in the new year.  I've always seen this time of year as a threshold. In my post, "In Their Own Words - John O'Donohue" on December 26th you can hear John speak about thresholds and their meaning in our lives.  I think of the individual years of my life like rooms in a huge, rambling house.  I spend a year in a lovely room, getting use to the view out the window, comfortably curled up on the couch and secure in my surroundings.  On new years day I have to open the door and pass into a whole new room and I'm not sure what I'll find but go I must.  When I open that door and cross the threshold, I also open myself up to all sorts of new possible ways of becoming. All  new books will be on the shelves and I'll see  a completely different view from the windows.  Who I was in the old room will not fit this new space. It is up to me to make the best use of my year in this new room of experience.

   The Abbey offers a setting of quiet reflection and no obligations except to make of the time what I can.  I will bring my camera of course but it is not the focus of my stay at the monastery.  There is a labyrinth I can walk (if it's not buried in snow!) and that is a wonderful thing to do at year's end.  The slow journey to the center is the perfect metaphor for the passing of the year.  When we get to the center we must turn around and wind our way out again.  I loved the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral that I walked this summer.  It is a meditative practice I plan to practice on a regular basis now.

    This is a photograph of me in County Clare, Ireland in 2009 that a friend made while we were exploring the Burren.  I include it because on January 4 it will be the 5th anniversary of my friend John O'Donohue's death as I mentioned in my post of December 26th.  He was born in County Clare and his writings on Celtic spirituality are world renown and a constant source of inspiration for me.  He would bring his retreat participants to the cliffs on Inis Mor, which look very much like this only much higher, and make them crawl on their bellies to look over the edge.  He always said, "You never know how close to the edge you are. You live your life like you will never fall off, but you will...someday."   So, at this time of year, I like to remind myself that we are all living near the edge and we must make time for what is important in our, friends, and contemplative photography!   You can visit "A Sense of Place - The Burren" to see a trailer of John's video, "A Celtic Pilgrimage",  completed just weeks before his death.  I strongly recommend it.  It is a beautiful experience.

"I want to stand as close to the edge
as I can without going over.
Out on the edge you see all the
kinds of things you can't see
from the center."

~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

   I wish all my blog readers a healthy, happy and contemplative New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Monthly Meditations...

   I love to have some image and text to mull over as I sit with my coffee in the morning.  This year I've created 5 X 7 cards to insert into a plexiglass holder that I keep near to hand.  I change them every month or when the spirit or circumstance moves me.  I use my own images but you could use any image the suits you and the text can be a poem or any bit of writing that stimulates your contemplative frame of mind.  The monthly meditation in this photograph was the one I used in December.  It has a lovely writing about faith and I needed it sorely as I tried to process the horror of the Connecticut shootings and, for me, the equally hard to digest news that the shootings had spawned an unprecedented wave of new gun purchases. I found this especially ironic and terribly sad in this season in which so many of us celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

    I've always found the end of one year and the beginning of another a hopeful time and despite the past few months I have continued this tradition.  The past, although particularly difficult this year, is past and, being an unabashed optimist, I see the future as a place of possibilities.  We may never fully get over the tragedies of 2012 - the families affected in Newtown and those families still struggling to overcome the disaster of Hurricane Sandy - but we can, together, move slowly through it. I can't help but remember the sight of the children of Newtown being let out of the school after the shooting. They kept their eyes closed and the hand on the shoulder of the one in front of them...completely trusting.

    This is the card I have on my end table right now.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chilliest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Emily Dickinson

Consider creating your own monthly meditations this year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

PhotoTao Card #13...

Card #13

Preventing the Fall
Fear is perhaps our greatest enemy. Disaster can
happen at anytime and to anyone...and so can good
fortune.  There is no way to avert the one or
create the other. 
- Exercise -
Digital photography has eliminated the fear of
"wasting" film.  The delete button is a liberating
thing!  Go out with the deliberate intention of
filling your memory card with only one subject.
Don't leave until you have made at least 50 
photographs...maybe 100!  If you  think you've
done everything you can...think (and look) again!


 It is so easy to rush while on location.  The thought that there is something else, right around the corner, is so tempting.  SLOW DOWN!  Stay in an area for a time...first just sitting and listening to the landscape and then slowly moving through it.  Take the "long view" and the "short view"...the vertical format and the horizontal.  Keep at it until you have your 50 images.  This photograph was made at my cousins summer camp in New Hampshire.  I'd been photographing the water front for at least an hour before I saw these amazing reflections!  Taking your time pays off every time!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Their Own Words - John O'Donohue

   Next week marks the 5th anniversary of the death of Irish poet and philosopher John O'Donohue.  I consider it a great blessing to have known John in the months preceding his death in January, 2008.  I met him in County Clare, Ireland and had time to sit and talk with him and we kept up a correspondence that has had a profound impact on me in the years since, especially his thoughts on beauty and the inner landscape.  These ideas fill my own notions of what it is to be a contemplative photographer.

   You may visit the link below to hear him talk about this wonderful topic in an interview done just two months before his death.  I hope you will find, within that conversation, a motivation to explore the world in the new year with an eye towards seeking out this sense of beauty that is a reflection of your own inner landscape and which can be seen and explored in your photography.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Man Who Planted Trees...

   Shortly after I wrote the post, The Elemental Self, I found a video of one of my all time favorite books, "The Man Who Planted Trees" by the French author Jean Giono.  Now, you might wonder what that book would have to do with the practice of contemplative photography but, for me, it is the perfect metaphor.  The video is also a beautiful animation of the short story and inspirational on so many levels.  It also reminded me of a lovely story of a little boy and a man who took a walk on a beach.... the man and boy walk along, they came upon hundreds of small crabs that had been washed up during a storm the day before.  Gently, the little boy picked up a tiny crab and carried to the sea throwing it as far out as he could.  Again and again, he returned to pick up a crab and return it to it's watery home.  The man said, "This is really a hopeless enterprise my boy.  There are hundreds and hundreds of crabs and you can not possibly hope to return them all to the sea.   For all your good intentions, you can't make any difference to their fate."  The little boy paused and said, just before he threw another crab into the sea, "It makes a difference to this one."

   Perhaps I think of this blog as "planting seeds"...I don't know if they will sprout or not but it doesn't matter. It is just something I am bound to is my "job" now and I hope it makes a difference to some people in some small way although I will probably never know. 

     As contemplative photographers, we see the benefit of just taking our time and letting the landscape direct our work.  It will tell us what to do and when.  We don't make our images for any other reason than to fuel our practice of contemplation.  It is a solitary pursuit but it makes a difference to us.  Patience is one of the things we strive for and so is persistence, like the little boy on the beach.  So go out, gather your images and share your thoughts with those around you.  Watch this delightful video and pass it on.  Think of it as planting a seed....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Staircase in the Woods...

Staircase in the Woods - Chesterfield, NH
   After I wrote the post "Remnants" I decided to make the search for these bits of 'leftovers in the landscape' an ongoing project.  I have several projects going at all times.  I think that's a good idea for artists of any kind.  I remember that when I taught painting I encouraged my students to work on 2 or 3 canvases at a time.  This way, individual pieces didn't get too precious.  One can easily obsess about something if it's the only thing in your life.  The same holds true for the photographic project.  Having several going at one time keeps my mind fresh. I get a whole different viewpoint if I take a break from it and work on something else.

Madame Sherri's home c1950

    I had pinned a location onto my Pinterest board, "My On Location Bucket List", awhile back and I thought it would be a good place to begin this project. So, the first week in December found me driving to the Vermont/New Hampshire border in search of this staircase in the woods.  After a few missed turns, I found these stone stairs on a quiet, wooded hillside in the Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield, New Hampshire.  The forest was named after the eccentric and flamboyant lady who build her "castle" here in 1924.  It burned down in the early 1960's, three years before her death, and there are many who claim to still hear the echos of her long ago parties.  It certainly is a place of immense presence.  This photograph shows the house in the 1950's and the location of the grand stone staircase in my photograph above.  If you go to my Pinterest site you can find a link to get you to the story of this fascinating lady.

Two Staircases Diverge in a Woods

    I began, as I always try to do, with a 'visual listening' exercise.  Unfortunately, I didn't hear any music and laughter from one of Madame's parties but I did hear the whispers of this poignant landscape.  This was a place that ached to be photographed.  I made a few sketches and took notes of my reaction to the site.  This double staircase view had captured my metaphorical imagination.  The left staircase, easy to climb, safe, wide enough for two to walk together...the right one, steep and dangerous and space for only one to ascend.  It made me think of the Robert Frost poem..."Two roads diverged in a woods..." Only it was two staircases.  "...I took the one less traveled on and that has made all the difference."  I'll let you play out the staircase metaphor for yourself.

   As I slowly walked around the ruin, I remembered my visit to a very different ruin 9 months ago, on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.  The "Annaberg Encounter" was unforgettable and a very different experience  than the one in this peaceful forest.  Here there was no tragedy pervading the atmosphere, just a remnant from what seemed to have been a happy life.

   My family home burned to the ground years after I had grown up and moved away.  It had fallen on bad times and it seemed like a blessing.  Sometimes, it is better to remember a place as it once was than to see it run down and neglected.  I think Madame Sherri would have felt the same about her castle in the woods.  I remember visiting my old homestead 15 years ago, at least the site where it had once stood.  A lovely new home was being built in its place.  I would not have recognized the land except that the old brick barbecue, the one my mother and I had built decades before, was still there, a crumbling remnant of my childhood.  I took away a brick that day, as a memento.  I was sure the new owners wouldn't mind.  The old thing would surely be torn down when they got around to it.   It seemed that even way back then I was searching for 'remnants'.  As I left the Madame Sherri Forest I began to see that this new project could have great potential for my contemplative practice.  I also think "Remnants" will be one of those projects I will work on for years!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In the Depth of Darkness...

   It has taken me several days to process the horror that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. People began posting their reactions on Saturday morning but I needed time to come to grips with the tragic events of that day.  I still haven't been able to make sense out of the senseless but I wanted to acknowledge the suffering in some small way.  It seemed that anything I could write on this blog would be so inadequate, so trite in the shadow of their overwhelming grief.  I will offer, therefore, just an image and a small poem for my blog friends to consider.  My sincerest hope is that we are all able to find our way out of this depth of darkness by reaching for our individual and interior light of faith. 

The Light of Faith -Mont St. Michel, France

No Man can compass a Despair—
As round a Goalless Road
No faster than a Mile at once
The Traveler proceed—

Unconscious of the Width—
Unconscious that the Sun
Be setting on His progress—
So accurate the One

At estimating Pain—
Whose own—has just begun—
His ignorance—the Angel
That pilot Him along—

Monday, December 17, 2012

Abbey of the Arts - Poetry Party...

Snow Tracks by Brent Bill
      I have been a follower of Abbey of the Arts for some time now and have mentioned it frequently on this blog.  I have a link to the website in the side bar.  I would like to call your attention to their Poetry Party.  Since my recent post of "The Photographer as Poet", it is a topic fresh in my mind and I thought some of you may enjoy participating.

   This lovely image is by Brent Bill and is in response to the December poetry challenge,  Kinship with Creation.  I can't imagine a more beautiful example of contemplative photography than Brent's image.  I invite you to visit the Abbey of the Arts website and join in the Poetry Party either with a written verse or an image.

   Christine Valters Painter is the on-line Abbess and she will shortly be moving to Kinvara in the West of Ireland, one of my most favorite places in the world! She will be offering personal retreats beginning in January and if my pages on the Burren and Corcomroe Abbey on this blog have tickled your imagination, you may wish to visit on a week long retreat with Christine.  I'm sure it will be a memorable experience.  In the meantime, watch my video of  Corcomroe Abbey.    Enjoy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Elemental Self...

The Madonna of Rouen
   Why do you make photographs?  I'm speaking now to those of you who would like to consider yourself a contemplative photographer.  At some point you need to peel away the masking layers of expectations, per-conceived ideas and self doubt and get to the core of your being - your Elemental Self.  This is a very personal process and I can only speak to my own journey so that's what I plan to do in this post.  I do this because I feel that when you understand your motivations, you can more fully realize your personal potential as a photographer.

"Knowing others is wisdom.
Knowing yourself is
Lao Tzu

   I returned to photography in 2005 at a particularly difficult time in my life.  The direction I thought that life was heading took a complete 180.  I needed a way to distance myself from the chaos in my daily life and teaching - something I'd done for 25 years - wasn't enough.  I turned to my old love, photography.

   Now I won't give you a blow by blow description of the ensuing 7 years but I will say I began the journey with a lot of per-conceived ideas of what being an "artist" meant.  I've slowly but surely evolved my own definition. Over the years I have exhibited a great deal, sold a fair amount of my work, published a book, and been featured in a national magazine.  All good things and one would think that I would have been content with my progress but something was missing for me.  I discovered that missing part in January this year when I began this blog.  The more I wrote about my process, the more I looked at my real motivation and I realized that sharing my love of contemplative photography was what I need to focus on going forward. But did that realization change my work?

   My process, my "thought flow", is unchanged but I've become more relaxed and at ease.  I no longer think of photographs in a commercial sense...will they sell?...will galleries like them?...I view them only in a contemplative sense and that has made all the difference.  I find myself spending time with "insignificance"...places and things that I would have over-looked before.  I don't count a good day by the number of images I have on my memory card but the emotional intensity of the few I do have.  At my core, my elemental self, I'm not a marketer...I am terrible at self-promotion.  If I was a business, I'd be out of business for sure! What motivates me is the pursuit of metaphor. It is the sense of discovery of essential truths hidden in plain sight that pulls me forward.  Now, sharing the personal joy I get from those discoveries is the most important motivation of all.

Why do you make photographs?


Friday, December 14, 2012

PhotoTao Card #12

Card #12

Providing for the Soul
The senses are of no use to an unhappy
person.  Care for your soul and let your
senses enjoy what you feel.
- Exercise -
Great writers become great, in part, by reading
great writing.  Great photographers surround 
themselves with great photographs.  Go to a 
museum's photographic galleries.  Bring a
notebook and jot down impressions, feelings
and reactions.  Collect books of your favorite
photographers and analyze what in their work 
appeals to you  All these impressions will
sift into your unconscious and impact the
images you make.

   I spend a great deal of time looking at the great masters of the photographic medium.  It was my study of Paul Strands work in the Outer Hebrides that led me there in 2005.  It was his approach to portraiture that greatly influenced my series, First Person Rural: a portrait of a Maine town.  But a word of caution is advisable here. Bernice Abbot (another wonderful photographer) once said:

"There are many teachers who could ruin
you.  Before you know it you could
be a pale copy of this teacher or that
teacher.  You have to evolve on your own."

   So, study the masters, chew on them, digest what they have to offer then spit them out!  You have to find your own way and you will. I've always told my students that within each person is a style, an approach that is uniquely theirs.  They just need to let it come out.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Praise of a Sunset...

      I went to Vermont last week to seek out one of the venues that I have longed to that has been on my "Bucket List" for some time.  But, oddly, this post is not about that place.  As so often happens to me, I  stumble upon something totally unexpected and quite revealing when I go looking for something else. That in itself is a powerful lesson I think.

   Earlier that day I had found the place I had come to photograph and it was a wonderful experience.  I will share that with you at a later date.  For now, I want to talk to you about the appreciation of a sunset...the experience of the glorious beauty we often take for granted.  I had finished my photography for the day and was headed for some quiet time and a nice glass of wine.  I wanted to mull over my days notes and impressions of the place I had driven 3 hours to find.  As I approached the restaurant I saw this amazing sunset reflected in the river that ran behind the establishment.  I ran back to the car and got my camera, delighted with my luck.  For a few minutes I just soaked in the incredible beauty...the peaceful geese gliding across the water oblivious, I was sure, of the beauty that surrounded them.  I made a few images, none of which can truly do justice to what I had just experienced, but mainly I just breathed in the exquisite beauty.  The day had been a gift already, unusually warm for a New England December, and this seemed a final heartfelt token from Nature.

   When I walked into the lounge area of the restaurant, which had a wall of windows looking out onto this amazing scene, I immediately noticed that no one, not one person, was looking at it.  They were all involved with their conversations or watching the news on the television above the bar.  When the bartender approached me I said, "Surely, that is an incredibly beautiful sight!"  He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Oh, we get that sort of thing all the time; you get pretty use to it after awhile."  I must admit, I was stunned.

    Have we become so cynical that such a simple beauty as a sunset no longer stirs our soul?  Can we truly get so use to such sublime beauty that we can no longer appreciate it?  Are our day to day lives so important, the scores of yesterday's football games so impelling, that we cannot take a few minutes to gaze with awe on what Nature creates before our very eyes?  I went to the window with my glass of wine and watched the geese dipping their beaks into the pools of glorious tangerine and violet and I thought, "Perhaps they have, in their own quiet way, a far better  appreciation of the sublime than we do."  I hope I , and you too my friends, never get too busy or too self-important that we can't find ourselves humbled in the presence of such beauty.

 “If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, 
I shall feel that I have worked with God.”
G.K. Chesterton
(Click on this link to find out
about this amazing writer.)

Monday, December 10, 2012


   As bad as my first attempt at a photographic poem was in my last post, it actually gave rise to a whole new idea for a photographic series..."things we leave behind" or Remnants.  It got me thinking about the transient nature of human efforts.

   On that same walk to Two Boulder Hill, I saw several examples of human constructed "remnants", like this old dilapidated stone wall.  It probably was constructed in the early 19th century by the farmer who owned this land.  New England is criss-crossed  by thousands of miles of stone walls.  Created to define a property line or field they were constructed with stones cleared from their farmland.  My grandfather always said the best crop New England grew was stones!  Every Spring the frost would faithfully heave up new ones.  Clearing stones from ones property was an endless chore.

   Also on the walk that day we saw an old, disused concrete bunker of some sort, a derelict paved road, an old rusted chain-linked fence enclosing...well, it was hard to say.  All these things were made for some purpose but then abandoned and left for Mother Nature to reclaim and she was well on her way.  This would make a fascinating series!  The New England landscape is littered with these remnants of our past becoming left overs in the landscape.  So, my first foray into a poetic sequence yielded an unanticipated reward...a new photographic project!  You see, you can never tell where the path you are on will lead you but I've found that if I follow my heart I will always end up someplace interesting, just like Alice....


Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Photographer as Poet...

"If I could tell the story with words
I wouldn't need to lug around a camera."
Louis Hines

   "A picture is worth a thousand words."  How often have we heard that said!  In this post I want to explore the idea of poetry making through photography.  The idea of deliberately creating a sequence of images that can be "read" by the viewer...a poem without words.

   The first distinction I would make is between a "series" and a "sequence".  While both are a collection of images, the first revolves around a theme or one specific idea and the second is a development of a poetic response to an idea.  It has, like poems, a beginning, a middle and an end...a sequential development.  A series, most often, can be viewed in any order; each image a variation on the theme whereas a photographic "poem" must be read in the order the artist intended. 

    I guess the next distinction I need to make is between "story" and "poem".  What sorts of stories do photographers tell?  Well, that would depend on what kind of photographer you are.  The photo-journalist/documentary photographer may focus on a political or environmental issue.  He starts with the idea and seeks out photographs to illustrate that idea.  Louis Hines' photographs of child labor in the factories of the early 20th century tell a poignant and heart-wrenching story.  You certainly don't need words, the pictures are all the "text" you need but, in fact, volumes were written when his photographs became known.  There will always be a place for the photo-journalist in the world.  There are so many stories that need to be told but as a contemplative photographer I want to explore the poetic capabilities of the medium rather than the documentary.

   Now, everyone is familiar with the idea of using a photograph to illustrate a poem.  The words come first and then the image.  Sometimes the poet is the photographer and sometimes it is a collaboration.  What I'd like to suggest is an approach that allows the images to come first...sequenced by the photographer...and, this is a bit of a departure, presented without words, as a kind of "open-ended" poem.  The images are meant to be illuminations rather than merely illustrations...illuminations of a central idea or quotation but with the photographers orchestration of sequence.  The viewer, whether the photographer herself or someone else, writes the poem in a "Lectio Visio" (visual meditation/reading) sentence for each image.  I wrote a post, "Photo Lectio - the image as icon"-May 16, 2012, that suggested that the individual image could serve as a catalyst for introspection and contemplation.  This post takes the idea one step further.  The sequence of photographs, the Photographic Poem, becomes a collaboration between the photographer and her audience. Each time the poem is "read" it can generate a new response.  Each person will bring their own interpretations to the sequence.

   I created a visual poem on my walk to Two Boulder Hill in Concord, Massachusetts in November.  This is a walk Henry Thoreau made in 1860 and a walk I will take in April with a group of photographers interested in learning more about contemplative photography.  I thought it would make an interesting first photographic poem!  (A disclaimer here...I'm no poet but I love the idea of a "poetic sequence".)  I've captioned each image and entered my first poetic response.  If anyone would like to offer their responses I will be happy to add them...a kind of photo poem round robin!

 The Approach to Crockery Field

 From a darkened past we seek the light...

  The Narrow Path Across the Field

... that will take us safely through.

 Boulder Shadows

 What transient shadows cross our path?

 Forgotten Pails

What have we left behind?

Well, it's a start.  I will mull this over and see what new ideas present themselves.  I see this as an "open ended" process.  The little poems are just another way to use my photographs as a contemplative practice.  Try creating your own poetic sequence and see where it leads!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

PhotoTao Card #11

Card #11

Usefulness of Nothingness
Become aware of emptiness because the
secret of your being lies in making good 
use of nothing.
- Exercise -
How often we've heard the phrase, "Don't go there,
 there is nothing to make pictures of!"  Out of this
nothingness, great photographs may come.  There
are no bad locations, only narrow vision and
closed minds.  Find such a place and spend time may even find your place of nothingness
right in your own back yard!

   The longer I pursue contemplative photography, the more convinced I am that there is a great deal to "nothingness".  What we choose to see as insignificant and not worthy of our attention as photographers says more about ourselves then the objects themselves.  I make it a point to seek out these places.

   Finding the sacred in the commonplace, the beauty in the everyday things of life, should be a goal for the contemplative photographer.  This pile of old bottles I photographed on South Uist had a wonderful story behind it...a story that brought me a greater understanding and appreciation of the Hebridean people and culture.  Such things are very easily over looked but try to make it a point to discover the "usefulness of nothingness."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Work of Heart...

   In a previous post, Photography, the Most Democratic of Mediums, I spoke about the various perceptions of photography in the art it "Art" (with a capital "A") or something else?  I struggle with this all the time.  The book I purchased in Paris this summer, "On Photography" by Susan Sontag, spends a great deal of time discussing this topic and I will probably be going back to this theme over the next few months. For today, I want to focus on the idea of the "fine art photographic print".

   Fine art photographers (as opposed to "commercial photographers" whose work is primarily for newspapers, magazines and other commercial applications) pride themselves in producing exquisitely printed pieces using expensive pigmented inks on rag papers.  They spend thousands of dollars and countless hours perfecting their craft.  Serious collectors and galleries expect no less.  I think there is nothing more beautiful that a finely printed photograph.  If we, as fine art photographers, want our work to be considered seriously than the print must be of the highest quality.   When I returned to photography after a 25 year hiatus in 2005, I toyed with the idea of joining their ranks but I must be honest, the expense and the technical skills required for such a venture were beyond me.  Instead, I employ a fine art printer to do the "work of art" and I concentrate on the "work of heart". 

Little Boy on a Bus - Japan, 2007
   Many people are intimidated by the technical considerations required in fine art photo printing.  Wading through a Photoshop instruction manual makes them panic and expensive digital SLR cameras are just not in their budget.  If you have been following this blog for any length of time you will probably know what my advice to those folks would be...relax!  The only requirement needed to be a contemplative photographer is the desire to explore the world around you, make sensitive and thoughtful images (with your cell phone camera if need be) and use them as a tool for personal reflection and meditation.  Your little inkjet prints may not wind up in the Museum of Modern Art but you can always find a fine art printer if the offer of an exhibition there arises.  (I'm still waiting for that offer but I'm not holding my breath!)  Don't let the fine art "purists" put down your efforts.  In the end, it is your relationship to your image that matters not the kind of paper it is printed on!  I've used the following quote before but it bears repeating...

"I'm always and forever looking for the image that has spirit! I don't give a damn how it got made!"  - Minor White