Photography as a Spiritual Practice
I got my first good camera five months ago, in November of 2012, a Nikon D3100 DSLR. I had a little point and shoot prior to that, but never took more than vacation, holiday or birthday party shots. I was inspired to take photography more seriously by Jikai, and also by my old college roommate who is a long-time art director. Jikai made the suggestion that I start carrying around a camera after I had repeatedly expressed frustration over not having time to pursue the arts I have formal training in,-music and fiction writing. Over the course of becoming a homeowner and a father my creative output was reduced to nearly nothing. There were no longer any blocks of time for writing music or fiction. But, quite surprisingly at first, by carrying a camera around I was able to incorporate creativity into my daily life- for the most part the life of a suburban dad and part time librarian.
Without intending it to happen, photography has quickly become a core part of my practice. Zazen, kinhin, photography: I've come to think of these three practices as progressive steps, each one enhancing the others, each one increasing in activity and increasing my interaction with the world while allowing me to remain in a mindful state. In the case of my photography practice, I experience a heightened sense of awareness and, at the same time, a heady re-orientation as I see the world of things as limitless forms, rather than as trees, houses, birds and so on. Time, whatever it may be, cannot, of course, be frozen by a camera, but my photography practice causes me to slow down, if only for a few moments each day, and really take something in; to see the essence of something.
I think a good, successful photograph will have the same effect on the viewer as it does on the photographer who took it; encouraging both to look beyond definitions and assumptions, to merge with the subject for a more direct, uninterpreted, un-intellectualized experience.
I've included here some pictures that are overtly religious in subject matter, others that, like traditional Japanese art, look to nature to convey a sense of the sublime. Other images originated as scenes or compositions that I happened upon and felt caught, or startled, or suprised. Other pictures here deliberately begin with the "mundane," the "commonplace" or the "cliche" -a bottle opener, shadows on the sidewalk, a pigeon, shoes, a sea shell- and attempt to reconsider their significance and their intrinsic beauty. Others consider beauty itself as a focal point.