This may be one of the most disturbing photography books you will ever read. It will challenge your notions about photography as it artfully points to a unity between subject, photographer, equipment and technique.
Professor Michael Eldridge, former Head of Post Graduate Studies in Photography at ‘The Arts University’ states in the Foreword:
“Stephen Bray writes here a travelogue about his voyage and search for meaning and inspiration. He also explores the relationship between photography and awareness within the context for formal Buddhist philosophy, for the benefit of those wishing to understand how these may be linked. Then, in Part Two, he shares his own experience and sets out some exercises for you to explore.”
“He gets lost, gets confounded in dead ends, is led and misled by people he comes across (it seems always by chance or perhaps by destiny) but they don’t disappoint him as he knows he is learning from them; always open to new experience and always learning. There is one constant, his camera. It is not just one cherished item. It is a generic camera, an extension of his mind which somehow projects itself through his eye and then through the lens out into the so called world of reality.”
The author of Photography and Psychoanalysis, suggests that Zen is the simple realization that self and other are opposite sides of our state of ‘being’, and as a result photography is best practiced as a compassionate activity.
In ‘Photography and Zen’ the author explores the relationship between photography and Zen Buddhism pointing to links and inconsistencies. In doing so he constructively demythologizes both Zen and Contemplative Photography.
The second part of the book departs from this historical framework and takes you into the journey through which the author became aware of, firstly, the external world he seemed to inhabit and, secondly, his own mind as he thinks about the challenges he faces whilst studying photography under an artful master. This part includes a number of exercises, based upon his own experience as a student, which are designed to frustrate you into glimpsing new possibilities.
The book’s challenge is that it’s a philosophical book rather than about technique. For the author beauty is to be found everywhere, even in scenes that most of us have been conditioned to think of as ‘ugly’. It is joyful to perceive without questions and to convey the experience in a photograph. When we leave behind the complexities of image manipulation we see clearly our essential nature reflected in the world.
The book guides you to photograph as ‘simply’ as you can, rather than blindly follow the conventional rules of image making. It is as suitable for beginners as it is for advanced photographers because it may be appreciated at many levels. The author remains as critical of Buddhism as he is of photography, yet the result is both a spiritual as well as psychological tour de force.
If you want to know why photographers such as William Eggleston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Frank Horvat have places in photographic history the answer is that they all see beyond color or texture or shape or space.
This book discusses how to divest yourself of the limiting conditioning, which dulls perception, before offering concrete exercises enabling you to find an original vision of the world. Once you can ‘see’ the technical aspects of photography rapidly fall into place. You need to drop your pre-convictions in order to have the eye of a master.