Cultural Arts Review: Contemplative Photography

Posted on November 11, 2012 by


The art of Contemplative Photography is important for Buddhists because of the similarities it has with their religion. Contemplative Photography requires the observer to analyze the photograph and find wisdom in it. Reflecting on photographs helps one to come up with realizations once he or she can see clearly, which is a theme in Buddhism. Seeing clearly helps free one from ignorance and confusion. Contemplative photographs inspire deep thought, wisdom, and wakefulness in the contemplative observers. Contemplating these helps see the world with new eyes, which can lead to perceptual enlightenment. It is a sort of visual meditation. In order to preserve the freshness of each image, contemplative photographers do not manipulate their images. Here are a few examples.


Photo Source: post-contemplative-photography-large1.jpg

This photograph is a good example of Contemplative photography because it is simple and yet complex. It is not your average photograph, because not many people would decide to take a picture like this. Contemplative photographers try to avoid cliche shots in order to confuse the mind in order to clear it and defy the conceptual mind. This photograph specifically is part of a round object, perhaps a mat. This is symbolic in Buddhism because of the cyclical cycle of death and rebirth known as samsara. One can only view his or her current life, however, so the rest of the unseen circle remains a mystery to the current self.


Photo Source: _CP1.jpg Michael Wood, Boulder, 2009.

This photo encourages the viewer to free themselves from the normal world because this shot is so unique. The freedom and the emphasis on the space of the sky allows one to free their minds from normal thought and contemplate on the three different surfaces reflecting the sky in this photograph. It is simple and complex at the same time, which can help lead to deeper thinking and therefore visual enlightenment.


Photo Source:

Once again, this photograph is not something one would generally snap a picture of if one passed it on a walk. This picture also emphasizes space over detail, allowing the viewer to empty his or her mind from the normal sights he or she sees on a day to day basis. One idea people can see in this picture is that of a path, the beginning and end of which are not in view. This idea also reflects samsara and the uncertainty of what is ahead and what has been left behind. What do you see in these photographs?



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