Photography can be about the camera and what the camera can do. But for me, the camera is there to catch what I see. The photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson is also all about seeing and he is a great inspiration to me.
“When someone says “sour,” it may remind you of biting into something sour like a lime. Since you already have had the experience of eating a lime and tasting how sour it is, just hearing the word sour and thinking about it, your face makes an expression as if you were eating a lime or lemon right now. Habit is formed out of memory, from that point of view. We begin to reshape our present situation according to that habitual memory and ape instinct, as we might call it.”
Chogyam Trungpa, “The Tibetan Buddhist Path” a seminar at Naropa University, Summer 1974.
So what relevance does this have for photography. Well, a lot. When we see something on our way to work, while shopping or simply brushing our teeth, during that split-second we see the raw qualities of whatever that thing is, its colour, texture, light and form, and thus its raw beauty. But after that short period, our minds arrive at the scene and label, and judge, associate and recall memories of whatever we see, ‘oh, its a can of coke’, ‘its a bus! ugly!’, ‘oh that reminds me of my..”. The beauty in our world sits peacefully in the split-second, and with practice that short period can become minutes.
I visit Sable Island often, perhaps twice a year for 8 weeks or so. It is a great place for photography but after coming here since 1997 one may think what you see gets old. There are horses, sand, sand dunes, seals, birds, sea, and so on. But when one is really looking, there are endless perceptions. When I see a horse I don’t just see a horse…
ART IN EVERYDAY LIFE
“Every moment we might be doing the same things—brushing our teeth every day, combing our hair every day, cooking our dinner every day. But that seeming repetitiveness becomes unique every day. A kind of intimacy takes place with the daily habits that you go through and the art involved in it. That is what is called art in everyday life.”
in Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art, page 27.
This quote describes well the wonderful sights that are around us everyday, and that paying some attention to that reality allows one to see the beauty in our world.
During the past week the light has been rather magical and it has led to me standing on the spot, gasping and then grabbing my camera. As Cartier-Bresson describes below, seeing and capturing these fleeting moments is a way of life, and just another way of expressing yourself.
“As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It is a way of life.” - Henri Cartier-Bresson
There is a plant that I have in the front of my garden called Artemisia schmidtiana “Silver Mound”. When I saw this plant at the garden centre I was impressed by its colour and texture and uniqueness so I bought it. After I had manhandled it for planting, it looked totally awful, like I had stamped all over it. However, after a period of time it came back to the plant that intrigued me earlier.
This is the nature of Silver Mound. It is also the nature of the raw perception in contemplative photography. Once that perception arises, you have to treat it well. If you let the busy dialogue of the mind enter, the perception will collapse.
Contemplative photography can lead one to a deeper experience of everyday life, one that you may share with others or not. The late Shambhala buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, explain this well.
THE ART OF MEDITATIVE EXPERIENCE
“The art of meditative experience might be called genuine art. Such art is not designed for exhibition or broadcast. Instead, it is a perpetually growing process in which we begin to appreciate our surroundings in life, whatever they may be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be good, beautiful, and pleasurable at all. The definition of art, from this point of view, is to be able to see the uniqueness of everyday experience.”
Chogyam Trungpa “Art in Everyday Life,” in True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art, page 27.
In the practice of Miksang (contemplative photography), there is a phrase called ‘fresh perception’. To the practitioner, this is an experience that occurs when the mind is very calm, free of the train of thoughts, yet the eye is wide open. In this state of mind, perceptions are quite raw and lucid, the ‘capture’ process is usually very tight and clean, and the image feels ‘fresh’. This happened to me last night during dinner. I was sat by a window and looked out and saw this image. I excused myself, grabbed the camera, took the picture and then returned to dinner.
I recently purchased a Canon S100 point and shoot, and absolutely love it. I was uncertain as to whether I would since I am so use to using a DSLR but I wanted a camera that I could carry anywhere, anytime. This little pocket camera does the trick and comes with me on my morning and evening dog walks.
So, as the spring arrives and memories of snow fade, I thought I would post a few shots from my morning dog walks, courtesy of the Canon S100.