I’m a bit sad this morning, because I finished a good book, Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing. I enjoy my contemplative reading in the morning, with a cup of Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. It’s even better when it’s an inspirational book related to photography like this one. I hated to see it end.
The book equated what the authors call “conscious camerawork” with the principles of the Taoist philosophies of Chuang-Tzu. While I have not studied these principles before, I have found that my approach to photography fits much of what they describe: Photography as a way to be more conscious in the world; a way to be in the moment, even a form of meditation.
I’ve thought of photography as meditation before. I’ve tried traditional meditation once or twice, attempted to sit and clear my mind of thoughts, but did not have much success. Yet when I am in the moment with my camera, my mind is clear. My presence is wholly there. I see things differently. Ordinary can become extraordinary.
Case in point, this image showing the detail of a painted newspaper box contrasted with a tile wall. It took working the scene with my camera to notice the details of the handpainting. To see the contrast of the color, the lines and the textures. A moment of meditation, finding an amazing detail in the every day world. How had I not seen this before? I had walked by here many times.
For me, photography is more about process than end result. I hesitate to admit the number of photos I take and don’t review. Or if I review, I don’t edit. Why? Because I got what I needed from the process at the time of capture. A brief moment of intentional consciousness, provided by the process of photography. That I get some wonderful images out of that process is a huge bonus, but not always the goal.
Tao of Photography talks a little bit about this, near the end:
Shocking as it may sound at first, the art of living and the meaning of life both lie in the sheer experience of beingness, and can be reached by simply allowing oneself to be and to relax into the ceaseless process of life. When a photographer comes to experience the intrinsic existential richness and beauty of life by practicing conscious camerawork, the goals of achieving artistic “perfection” and “immortality” may lose some of their appeal.
Maybe this is part of what I’m looking for with the photo-heart connection. It’s not about the end result, a perfect image, but the way I feel all the way through.
What about you? Is photography about process or end result for you?