What is Contemplative Photography?

Being in nature with my camera brings me deep serenity as I contemplate the true nature of what is appearing through my camera lens as Life.  For many decades I sought solace from the tension of the world and the thoughts in my head by picking up my camera and heading outside, especially at sunrise and sunset.  I feel calm, centered and full of joy in the solitary and sacred practice of contemplation with my camera.

Smith Mountain Lake    Image: (c) Anita White Avent

By simply observing Life through the camera’s lens and perceiving the light of vision, I’m transported out of my mental imaginings and back to this moment, to what is appearing, to this particular beingness as Anita, to the appearances of Mother Nature.

Practicing photography and contemplation together is being present with what the human eye and camera are seeing and being present in the body with what is appearing through the human eye as it sees through the camera’s lens.

With a contemplative photography practice, I become one with the camera and lens, allowing the lens to capture and be imprinted with this holy instant – unifying subject, object, seer, and lens as one undivided holy

moment.  The term Contemplative Photography was coined by students of the Tibetan Meditation master Chögyam Trungpa. It is also known as Miksang, or “Good Eye”.  As described by Andy Karr & Michael Wood,

 “The root meaning of the word contemplate is connected with careful observation. It means to be present with something in an open space. This space is created by letting go of the currents of mental activity that obscure our natural insight and awareness.”

As a spiritual practice for me, photography is about cultivating a sustained mystical awareness of the union between my human eye and the camera’s lens.  It is a spiritual practice for me to rise early in the mornings to capture the Golden Hour of sunrise.  I often say goodbye with my camera at sunset and have enjoyed practicing Contemplative Photography since 2001.

Anita White Avent
Raleigh, NC, USA

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