Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Contemplative Photography: What the Heck...

Howdy. I teach a class on Contemplative Photography (in act the next class begins April 9th!) and the question that is often asked first is what does the phrase even mean?

So, I thought I would expand a bit on this idea. The word contemplative on its lonesome simply means to view with continued attention, or to observe thoughtfully. To observe thoughtfully... should not all of our photographs be contemplative by this definition? Should we not as artists using photography as our medium be making images everyday that are only made with careful and thoughtful observation? I would think so, but alas, 'tis not so.

Often we see something in the 3D reality of our world and we decide that we would like to make a photograph of that something and call it our own. So we immediately hold our camera to our face and snap a picture. Sometimes it is captured adequately and sometimes... not so much. When it does not work, we often do not know why, but the image rendered on the page does not match the image in our mind. There are TONS of reasons for this- one biggie is that we are alluding to third dimension without having one. A piece of paper is a two dimensional picture plane, somethings get lost in translation from 3D to 2D (more on this in another post). There are some neat things you can do compositionaly because of this (more on this in another post, too!)

Sometimes we adequately capture the "thing" in the photograph, but somehow miss the mark in describing our intended emotional response to the thing. In other words, sometimes a picture of a lake is simply a picture of a lake- when in fact it would be a far more interesting image if we were able to capture our emotional response to the lake, like tranquility. This is because photographs are not just a representation of things in a frame- no, what photographs are "of" are actually emotional responses to things found in our world, (more on this in another post, too!). It is our responses that are so captivating.

So, as artists we are guiding our viewers to feel the same thing we do about a subject. Or perhaps, maybe not always get them to feel the same thing, but at least let them know how we feel about it.

I have somehow strayed away from my original thoughts on contemplative photography. Sorry about that. Contemplative- observing thoughtfully- right back on track. With the word "observe" this would imply that there is one who is doing the observing, so lets look at the observer.

The observer is the photographer, the final picture created is the "proof" of that observation. It is a visual depiction of the mind that did the observing. What I am getting at is that a photograph is an extension of the mind that observes. An extension of the mind, wow. We have a way of expressing exactly how we see/feel about a subject. As a photographer we have the ability to use a device that can render in utter perfection the thoughts that we have. We have our camera!!!

Anyway, if this sounds interesting to you in any way shape or form. Please come join me next Tuesday night at RedLine where I will be giving a public talk on Conmtemplative Art. The idea is to bring up some interesting ideas such as these and discuss them in an open forum. As artists we learn from one another, so I look forward to hearing and learning from you.


Please join me at Redline!

Contemplative Art: Art as a Spiritual Practice
a talk with Greg Cradick, Executive Director, Working with Artists
Tuesday, March 17th @ 6:00p
2350 Arapahoe St
Denver, CO 80205
(303) 296-4448

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