Zen Photography

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by cliveh, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I believe that some images are the result of an artless art, where the image is captured devoid of conscious perception by the photographer. Would others agree?
     
  2. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Yes, I accidentally click the shutter about once per roll. I'm trying not to though.
     
  3. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Read Eugen Herrigel's Zen And The Art of Archery. Fascinating book.
     
  4. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I read Tao and Photography a while ago (my signature quote was used in the book) and enjoyed it. I think Eastern-philosophy has a lot to add to aesthetics and photography. I would equate your notion of artless art with HCB's decisive moment, where you shoot based on the alignment of the elements within the photograph rather than on Adam's visualized final form; one seems more emotive/impulsive to me and the other is more intentional. Both are valid in their place but neither can be fully practice in the presence of the other.
     
  5. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Now you're onto something cliveh. I'm convinced that when taking pictures the eye and visual mind works faster than rational mind can react. Thinking can guide the process into position, but ultimately logic has to let go and allow the plan play out at the point of exposure -- where the eye is in charge.
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    making photographs is all about being in the moment ..
    letting go and letting yourself go and letting things take
    their natural course.
     
  7. lesm

    lesm Member

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    This is something I struggle with a lot when I ask myself (as I often do) why I take photographs. It's a curious contradiction, almost. As a photographer you want consistently "good" results (whatever "good" means to you) and that requires a certain amount of deliberation, study, practice etc. etc. At the same time, I agree with you that the more one can let the process happen and get the ego out of the way, the closer one can get to a truly spontaneous act. But that sounds like trying to practise spontaneity, which is ridiculous. I still haven't figured this out!

    Great thread. I'll follow it with interest and hope someone can show me the golden light...
     
  8. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I have read Zen and the Art of Archery and found it very close to what I am trying to express. I can’t always achieve this myself, but would suggest that you should never take a camera out expecting to take a photograph. I think the key is complete relaxation devoid of thought. I seem to recall a quote that says something along the lines of “you should not take photographs; it is the photograph that takes you”.
     
  9. erikg

    erikg Member

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    If you photograph live events or even landscape I think it becomes clear that there is only the now, a moment exists and then it's gone. There is a flow. If I can tune in to that flow and tune out the noise, it feels zenlike to me. HCB certainly understood the relationship. It's pretty interesting.
     
  10. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" is a much better read if you're after Zen cookbooks.
     
  11. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Photography is my second passion. I have been a serious martial artist for 35 years. In my experience, the zen happens only when you don't expect it. You have to work your ass off, spend hours and hours trying and thinking, producing buckets of sweat in real conscious effort until one magical moment of effortlessness happens. You don't control the moment, can't make it happen, and don't even know it is "happening". You can only realize later that it "happened".

    I don't know, but suspect that photography is quite the same. Some day everything flows in the viewfinder, the camera becomes a part of your hand, your hand a part of your brain and the shutter trips itself at the perfect moment. But it can be arrived at only after tremendous effort and much, much practice.
     
  12. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I bow to this quote as someone much more experienced in this art than myself. For what its worth I have just posted one of my few Zen moments on the Critique Gallery.
     
  13. CGW

    CGW Member

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    Have only had a few such experiences around a kendo dojo. Instead, it's been sweat, sprains, bruises(to ego and body), embarrassment, mochi toes from peeled-off nails, expense, and doubts about continuing. The 10,000 hour rule isn't too far off. Accidents are accidents. Those rare transcendent moments aren't the same. Photography isn't really any different.
     
  14. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I love Alan Watts books The Way of Zen and the Wisdom if Insecurity. The stuff is dense. Every time I re-read his books, it always find something new. I think the nuts and bolts of photography is the easier part, but actual photographing and getting the unexpected great shot is the tough part.
     
  15. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    I spent years with a group staring at a wall and being slapped with a wooden stick when I moved

    The result is I now prefer growing vegetables to photography
     
  16. Sethasaurus

    Sethasaurus Member

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    "If you meet the photographer on the road, kill the photographer"

    (Someone had to say it :wink:
     
  17. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    That's called experience. Something that many feel is not needed. But time has told me that the more I produce photographs, the better they get. The more I shoot the more invisible the process becomes, the less I have to think about technique. The more I can just look at a scene and see it as a finished print in my head.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi lesm

    i agree with what early riser just posted ..
    the best way to allow yourself to be able to forget you have
    a camera you are working with, is to be 1 with it, and know
    how it will react to everything you will do. the "it"
    is the camera, the scene / person / subject, film, developer,
    paper, and developed out image ( or numericize if that is the route you go ).
    once you are plugged in, you can unplug yourself and not think about any of it.
    and the best way to plug yourself in, is by using a camera, film/paper an awful lot.

    ( and to enjoy yourself )
     
  19. lesm

    lesm Member

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    The corollary to that (and the lesson I have yet to learn despite decades of taking photos) is to find a good camera and stick to it! I was born in the Year of the Wood Monkey and I have a monkey mind - never still, never satisfied, always wanting to try something new. It has its upsides, but consistency isn't one of them. I've had more cameras than motorbikes (and oh, there's been a few - ask my wife). But I'm workin' on it, I'm workin' on it. I'm down to eight cameras (and three of those are digital, so that's in a parallel universe). But then there's lenses....

    Seriously, your point is well made and I do understand it. One of the things that still gives me goose bumps is the moment of squeezing the shutter and winding on, knowing that it took 13.7 billion years to arrive at that 250th of a second. Galaxies, stars and planets have been born and died, dinosaurs came and went, civilizations have risen and fallen, mountains have been heaved up and worn down, all leading up to this brief moment and the echo of that moment is inside my camera and nowhere else in the universe. Those are the moments when I get an inkling of what it means to be a photographer.
     
  20. Maris

    Maris Member

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    Certainly yes! There is an entire genre of photography where camera exposures are made without conscious perception on the part of the camera-clicker. I would conjecture that Gary Winogrand would fall into that classification, Lee Friedlander maybe, and Henri Cartier-Bresson certainly. The key modus operandi of the technique is that the camera operator goes to a potentially interesting mix of subject matter (crowded airport, street riot, celebrity parade, etc) and then clicks away incessantly while events churn.

    At the camera-work stage there is no decisive moment, no artful pictorial compositions. All moments rush by unseen, unexamined, and unconsidered merely punctuated by the twitch of camera clicks. At the end of the day these "reflex response" camera-workers basically have "burned" film and hope that something nice might turn up. The payoff comes when the contact sheets are examined. Henri Cartier-Bresson was particularly venomous to anyone watching him inspect contact sheets. He could not bear the possibility that people would discover that he had no clear idea of what was on the film.

    Of course among the thousands of exposures that this style of camera-work generates there will inevitably be some gems; one in a thousand, maybe one in ten thousand. The underlying art is of considerable magnitude but it is not measured by the mountain of discarded pictures or by the nice ones that turn up. Rather it is embodied in the devouring impulse to make so many exposures and the even greater obsession to sort through much rubbish in search of putative masterpieces.
     
  21. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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  22. lesm

    lesm Member

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    I hate to say it, Maris, but this sounds like a very good reason to use a digital camera...
     
  23. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Weddings too.

    One must maintain the facade, when it is what pays the bills.

    I actually lived that for a while. It is a tough and frustrating way to make a living.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I think it's why many people use digital, but I don't see it a a good reason to shoot digital. It's a lot of work.