We love guest blog posts! Today’s article on contemplative photography is by
Kimberly Poppe, hobbyist photographer from Lodève, France. Kimberly started to practice this genre after an inspirational talk with a friend and now she wants to share her experiences with you. Please enjoy…


Photo by Joni Jarvinen

What is contemplative photography?

Contemplative photography is a method of seeing and photographing the world in new ways. Integrating meditation into each image that you take. Along with it being great fun, this is a real practice of introducing reflection into the everyday — off the cushion and walk around the world. The practice is to see and photograph the world in new fresh ways, to reveal richness and beauty that is normally hidden from view. For example: capturing the beauty of shadows, elegance of lines or clash of colours, the elements which a passer by could just ignore to see. It is something anyone can try.


Photo by Nobuo Furuhashi

Introduction

When I was studying English literature, I remember being particularly struck by this passage in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own:

“What is meant by ‘reality’? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable—now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now in a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying. It overwhelms one walking home beneath the stars and makes the silent world more real than the world of speech—and there it is again in an omnibus in the uproar of Piccadilly. Sometimes, too, it seems to dwell in shapes too far away for us to discern what their nature is. But whatever it touches, it fixes and makes permanent. That is what remains over when the skin of the day has been cast into the hedge; that is what is left of past time and of our loves and hates.”

I have always been slightly obsessed with those moments of “reality” and the idea that they could be less erratic and more dependable, which is part of what has led me to the practices of both meditation and photography.

One day a friend of mine mentioned Contemplative Photography while talking about a book by Andy Karr & Michael Wood. My friend thought I would connect with it as my photographs naturally seemed to be leaning in this direction. What resonated with me was that it was a way to align photography (my creative outlet) with what I was trying to cultivate in my life. I was inspired that photography could actually be used as a way to be more fully present and as a way to be able to see and experience the world more freshly or more purely.

I used to photograph before I started practicing contemplative photography, but I feel like a beginner to both photography and contemplative photography still. There is so much to learn!


Photo by Kimberly Poppe

How to practice

When I started contemplative photography I used “Seeing Fresh” assignments as a guide. I have practiced those assignments often and continue to go back to them. I find that by simply trying to focus on either colour, or texture, or simplicity or light it brings a clarity and new perspective to both to my mind and my photographs.

I’d really encourage other 500px photographers to explore and play around with these tutorials and I look forward to seeing the effect that it has on their work.

Did my photographic style change after I started to practice contemplative photography? Yes and no. I still tend to veer towards abstraction, but since I started practicing contemplative photography it has brought me more into touch with my own natural ability to see (which we all have) and has given me more confidence in it.


Photo by Matt Hanson

Discoveries

Exercising contemplative photography has helped me to come to know my own mind more. I am more aware of how and when I judge something as “good” or “bad”, before I have even let myself experience it. I also notice more detail when I am seeking after what I perceive as a “good shot”—and the hopes and fears that can come with this—and by being so focused on achieving that “good shot” I miss the real shot that is right in front of my eyes. Through being more aware of my concepts, ideas, judgments, and thoughts, it has helped me in attempting to let go of all these concepts and be a bit more free in both my mind and my photography; even if just a little.


Photo by Angie McMonigal

Examples

After a bit of research and digging I have come across contemplative photographers on 500px. Some I found while searching for “contemplative photography” and “miksang” (which is Tibetan for “good eye”), and some I came across by accident. Some of my favourite contemplative photographers on 500px are: Sara Feld, Alexi Wiedemann-Orrego, Tasso Dikaios, Sharon Steele, Sebastian Reggiany, Anne-Laure Amayon and Yuri Bittar.

Whenever I see a “fresh” photograph I am immediately drawn to it and then I try to investigate the photographer’s work more. It is my real hope that more wonderful 500px photographers start to experiment with contemplative photography and I am really looking forward to seeing their work.

I talked to some of the contemplative photographers that I did find at 500px, but not as much as I would like to. What really interests me is the process that goes on in the mind of the photographer and what this practice can lead us to discover about ourselves. It is difficult to convey this information through writing comments or messages only. What I would also really like to know is how the viewer experiences contemplative photographs.

I can only imagine and hope that contemplative photography brings that same feeling of freshness, clarity and space to the mind of the viewer, even if just for a moment.

 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to add Kimberly Poppe to friends visit her 500px page.

Looking for more guest posts? Take look at Your Camera Is The Key by Pete Collins and How To Get A Photo Pass for Concerts by Brad Moore.

Share your contemplative photos in the comments below!