Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential. ~ Jonathan Ives design philosophy, Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson
Join us over at Flickr in the Photographic Simplicity group.Read More
However, often the opposite happens. The busyness and the to do list take over.
Before December even starts, let’s identify what we want to experience during this month and aim our focus there. That means letting go of those things that aren’t in line with what we value.
This is the essence of simplification.
For the month of December, I will be re-designing my website, spending time with family, and photographing simplicity.
Instead of blog posts, I will be posting a photo each day on my blog and in a Flickr group on the theme of simplicity. And, I’d love for you to join me.
Join the group here (and invite your friends).
This will be practice for me as I prepare for a new, month-long workshop coming next May called Keeping It Simple.
In that workshop, we will delve deeper into the history of simplicity and minimalism in art and photography and the power of these types of images. To read more on this topic, check out the inks below.
My Posts on SimplicityRead More
Last year I posted extensively about my experiences with the book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography, by Michael Wood and Andy Karr.
Afterwards, I attended a workshop in Boulder, Colorado led by Michael Wood and his partner, Julie DuBose. The experience was one of the best I’ve ever had – a combination of excellent teaching, the magic of Boulder, and the incredible like-minded group they had gathered from all over the world.
Now, Julie DuBose has published her book, Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind and Heart.
And, a beautiful book it is. In person, Julie has an inner stillness which is palpable and this quality shines through her images and writing.
The book delves deeply into how to prepare the mind, heart, and body for the experience of fresh perception.
It also explains how the practice of deep seeing can have a profound impact on how we live and appreciate our lives.
What You Will Find Inside
The Introduction describes why contemplative photography is an important practice – it helps us see our world anew every day.
What if we could look at our partners and see them completely and deeply, would we be able to love them more fully? If we could look at snow falling not he pavement and feel its gentles softness on our face, would we simply enjoy the experience without our habitual dread of cold, snowy days? Could we discover the brilliant colours in our world and simply enjoy? We could live this way.
Preparing the Mind
Julie begins by explaining how we are born taking in the world through all of our senses. As we grow, we make sense of our world through naming, judging and filtering. Preparing the mind for contemplative photography is a continual process of letting go of our preconceptions.
If we begin with an open, receptive, curious, attentive mind, free of judgment and the desire to interpret, the impulse to express will flow through us, vibrating with possibility. From this openness, unconditional expression is born.
When we are truly present and our minds are ready, perceptive possibilities are everywhere. They are experienced, according to Julie, like flashes of lightning. Our mind is stopped and “what we see is vivid, brilliant, and rich.”
The next step is to stay with the perception and understand what it is – colour, line, light, texture, or a combination? Where does the perception begin and end? Is it vertical or horizontal? Only by understanding the perception will we be able to express it as we experienced it.
As photographers, our tendency at this point is to try and improve on the perception or to alter it in some way. We become focused on the final outcome and whether others will find it interesting or beautiful. This is a real obstacle to direct seeing.
It is not unusual for us to doubt the value of our experience, unless it has been confirmed and validated by others. We are also taught that unless something has significance it isn’t worthy of notice. Imputed meaning is completely relative – it is always changing and being reinterpreted according to changing views. We need to develop trust in our experience. Then we can produce a photograph that expresses the depth and dimensionality of our experience.
The Image as Completion
If contemplative photography is a practice of direct seeing, why take the photograph? Julie’s answer really resonates with me.
Perhaps because we have a deep need to share our experience. The photograph becomes a living expression of our experience. Because our relationship with this perception is so full-bodied, because we have connected with our mind and our heart, we can come back to the image of this perception again and again and experience the freshness of that first moment. We have honoured our experience of perception fully.
A New Way of Living
By practicing this direct seeing and photographing, we are able to develop a stance of true appreciation for our lives.
Contemplative photography is a shift in awareness from looking for the highlights in our visual world to a state of deep noticing. We feel the joy of deep, unconditional relationship. The more we develop our ability to rest in stillness, relax our point of view, and really see and connect with our world, the more fully we will live our lives every day.
For those interested in truly understanding perception from the Miksang point of view, I highly recommend this book. Tomorrow, I will post Julie’s answers to a few questions I posed after reading the book.
Learn more about Effortless Beauty.Read More
“I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to the world.
I know nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me,
to meet and be met.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, From The Book of Hours