Andy Karr and Michael Wood. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc. 2011. 226 pages.
Karr is a writer, photographer, Buddhist mediator and teacher. Wood teaches Miksang contemplative
photography workshops in North America and Europe. The book is an excellent introduction to the practice of contemplative photography. It provides clear descriptions of terms and explanations of techniques. The authors explain how to work with the eye, mind and heart together to expand vision and appreciation of the world.
A clear distinction is made between "conceptual seeing" and "perceptual seeing". The aim of contemplative photography is perceptual seeing, that is direct experience as free as possible from preconceptions, analysis and thought. It is a process of rediscovery of our innate, non-conceptual, creative intelligence we are all born with. It involves careful observation and reflection on the ordinary world around us as a source of raw material and inspiration.
The three stages of contemplative practice are revealed and explained 1. recognizing and tuning-in to the flash of perception, e.g. finding the anomalies in ordinary perception, becoming aware of a gap or an interruption in the flow of mental activity, 2. stabilizing the flash through visual discernment - dealing with the excitement of discovery and distracting thoughts, and 3. forming the equivalent of what was seen - creating an image that is reflective of the original perception through composition, camera settings and a minimum of post-production.
The book is richly illustrated with examples from Karr's and Wood's own work and a few others. Seven practical, interesting and challenging assignments are offered to assist in developing the skills discussed.
In summary, the book presents an interesting innovative process for "deep" seeing and a useful addition to the photographic creative toolbox.