Zen and the Gentle Art of Looking Sideways

 Fernhill Reservoir; Washington County Oregon  2015

Fernhill Reservoir; Washington County Oregon  2015

I'm reading a delightful book on photography. Ok, that's not such a stretch, so let me explain. I love books about photography and photographers, and even the occasional nuts-and-bolts kind of thing. There's always something to learn. But I find myself moving into uncharted territory, and so far it's a pretty incredible trip.

The book in question is Zen Camera: Creative Awakening With A Daily Practice In Photography by David Ulrich (Watson-Guptill, 2018). Yeah, not the usual f/stop and shutter-speed kind of thing, but one with much deeper implications than your typical how-to

I have long been a practitioner of zen photography, I just wasn't aware of it. When you make your living at it, you sometime go on auto-pilot. But here's the thing: the yin-yang of creativity is pretty compelling. On the one hand, it is autobiographical: it is a statement to the world, a reply to the universe. On the other, it is intensely private, a singular moment of personal reflection. Photography in particular is built upon a lifetime of these moments.

 Vanishing Park Bench, Clackamas County Oregon  2018

Vanishing Park Bench, Clackamas County Oregon  2018

I see pictures constantly throughout the day; some are virtual and remain in my mind, while many others compel me (often unconsciously) to bring the camera to my eye. When this becomes your meditation, it's no longer possible not to see. "The camera" says the wonderful Dorothea Lange, "is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."  This is my practice of zen photography. This is what's starting to make sense.

I have my own students now, informally, mostly, though I am forever a student myself. I do my best to lead them astray. Really, we're all just a bunch of happy wanderers. I hope they -- and you, as well -- keep developing a life-long vision and philosophy about what is beautiful and honest. Your eye will always be looking inward and outward, forwards and sideways. I'm working on it myself, and so I hit the books from time to time. I really like them.

Even the nuts-and-bolts kind of thing.