Photography and Awareness

Each person must find his or her own path. Nonetheless,
seek guidance from wise and compassionate people and
listen to them earnestly. This will help you find the best
way to proceed – now and in the future.

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.

Photograph by Stephen Bray

 When I began photography I had no idea that it could have a spiritual dimension. It was magical, of course, because it seemed a way to represent reality without the effort of drawing, or painting. Later, it became a way to meet girls, travel, and inform others.

But photography, particularly in this digital age is also a way to receive instant feedback about who you are when you know how to read the signs.

Most photographers are unable to deliberately pursue this course, because it requires surrender rather than attempted mastery.

Frustration arises when the white impression of a hair appears as an otherwise perfectly crafted image emerges on paper in the developing tray. More commonly, in these digital days, similar emotions arise when it seems impossible to correct an error made at the time of exposure using the latest image editing software.

These difficulties are information coming back from the eternity from which our self-identity has appeared. They point to a lack of self-knowledge as much as those errors in image-making. Often faults, such as the hair, or the poorly exposed digital file, may be traced back to preoccupations with our illusory selves as we prepared the darkroom, or made settings upon our cameras.

Sometimes disappointment rises to the point of anger, or desperation. In a way, this is good because it focuses our attention upon the dream of separation. It’s not the darkroom, chemicals, or camera that is at odds with creation but us, in the form of our self-image.

The very best photographers know how to get out of the way of their creativity and simply allow pictures to come. As a result their camera becomes like a ‘third-eye’ through which they see clearly. Experience hones technical skills, which now seem automatic. They know that their images are as much about them as the imaginary outer world that seems to present itself to be objectively recorded.

A few go so far as inject this insight into their work by including themselves as figures within the frame, but it’s not necessary to do so in order to learn from your photography.

As this journal develops I will share some insights into the work of notable photographers, as well as display my own work and write about the way of photography.

I hope you will enjoy what you find here.

An Interview with Photographer Stephen Bray

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