For awhile I've felt like my photography was in a rut. I took quite a few classes in high school and have always enjoyed seeing the world through a camera lens. But lately I've felt like I've been taking the same pictures, more or less, over and over. So, I was pretty excited when Shambala Publications offered to send me a review copy of The Practice of Contemplative PhotographyThe Practice of Contemplative Photography. "Perfect!" I thought, "I'll get some ideas for new techniques, a few tips..." But, it turns out it was exactly the opposite.
This is a really beautiful book, the photos of course, are lovely, but the sentiment that the authors express is so exactly what I've been needing to hear. Let me share a quote.
Concepts about pictorial techniques can further constrict [the photographer's] vision. Trying to see the world through the "rule of thirds" to create good composition, shooting very early or very late in the day because the light will be warm, or playing with exposure and color balance to make images look more dramatic... This separates them from the immediacy of their experience.
So, instead of being a book of tips and tricks, the book seeks to help the reader liberate themselves from the things that actually prevent them from really seeing. I suppose I'm drawn to the slowness, the simplicity, the meditative quality of the process. All of that just sounds so appealing right now.This paragraph from the chapter, Art in Everyday Life, really stood out to me.
Ordinary experience is the raw material of our photographic art. Photographer, writer and curator Beaumont Newhall wrote, "We are not interested in the unusual, but in the usual seen unusually." When we separate our artistic activity from daily life, we cut ourselves off from our most valuable resource. We divide the world into the worthwhile and the unimportant; the meaningful and the merely functional. Instead of appreciating what we have we look for something better, something more beautiful, more entertaining... Instead of looking elsewhere for nourishment, we can live artistic, elegant lives, appreciating the details of our ordinary experience.
That sentiment speaks to me on so many levels, not just about creative expression, but about how we live our lives. If you're feeling like you need to shake yourself up creatively, see things in a new way, this is the perfect book. If you just want to feel inspired and renewed, it's perfect for that too. In each chapter there are little "assignments," encouragement to try something new. I plan on working my way slowly through the book, referring back to it when I need a little reminder to really see through that lens.