Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What does it mean to be a contemplative photographer?

   Let me say this right up front.  Contemplative photography is not so much something you do but something you are.   The operative word in the title of this post is BE.

    Having all the "right" equipment and taking all the "right" workshops will not make you a contemplative photographer.  Having the right mindset, one devoid of judgement, cultivating a vision that sees the beauty and meaning in the ordinary and the metaphors in the landscape and equipping your heart with the ability to stay open to the mysterious and you are on your way to embracing photography as a contemplative practice.

   Instructors can teach you all about your camera and ways to perfect your photographic images.  Only you can teach yourself how to become a contemplative photographer; it is that personal a process.  And like all forms of education, you first need to see the value in it before you will want to learn anything about it.

   Some people melt seamlessly into the idea of contemplative photography while others see no point to it at all.  Both are right.  If you found this blog by chance then it is because you were seeking something you couldn't quite put your finger on.  This is how I have found most things of value in my life.  Simply asking the questions will lead you to what it is that will speak to you and resonate with you.  Those things will shimmer somewhere inside and then you will know you are on the right path.  Perhaps, contemplative photography could be the path for you.

   Abdicating some of the control is an important first step in the process.  Let the images find you.  Believe me, they will.  When I first began embracing contemplative photography, on my trip to the Western Isles back in 2005, I tried a little experiment.  One day I venture forth with no plan in mind; no per-determined destination to journey to.  I expected nothing and I tried, very hard, to stay open to whatever presented itself to me.  It was an eye-opening experience.  I immediately felt a lightness of spirit.  I had nothing to prove and I felt happily content with everything I encountered.  I let circumstance direct me and it led me to a remote and stunningly beautiful place I probably would never have found.  I made the photograph above of a solitary standing stone, a favorite of mine from the trip.

   I didn't realize at that time that I was beginning the journey of the contemplative photographer.  I just knew that my little experiment open up possibilities for me that didn't fit in with the traditional photographic process I had been taught to do.  I still had a long way to go but it was a small start.

   What had begun as a scripted and goal oriented journey to the Western Isles of Scotland in 2005 evolved into a free flowing encounter with the landscape.  I was hooked.  Try it yourself and see; then you will begin to understand what it means to be a contemplative photographer.


   You might like to explore the idea of contemplative photography on a retreat to Star Island over Labor Day weekend.  Just click on the announcement to the right to find out more details. Spending a few days in a contemplative location with like minded people will go a long way in giving you a better understanding of what it means to be a contemplative photographer.  It may also give you an insight into whether this may be a path for you.  At the very least, it will be a first step.



Mystic Meandering said...

I love this post, and I am discovering this too. Although I only dabble in "contemplative photography" I'm finding that when I try to take a course, as helpful as that is, and I could certainly use improvement :), it stops my creative/intuitive flow of just connecting... Thinking takes over about whether I'm doing it "right" or not. There's just something enlivening about letting myself be spontaneous and intuitive, and experimental, in the process; about staying open to the mystery, as you say, and allowing the image to draw us in... However, when I get a "big girl" camera, instead of just my Kodak Easy Share, I will probably have to take a course to learn *how* to use it! LOL

Thank you for all these wonderful offerings. Glad to be on the journey of discovery with you... :)

Patricia Turner said...
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Patricia Turner said...

Some instruction is very important initially. You have to feel comfortable with the camera but I like Picasso's comment, "It took me my whole life to be able to draw like a child." Never let the learning interfere with the pure joy of experiencing the landscape with child-like enthusiasm.