Photography and Zen: Discovering your true nature through photography, addresses two disturbing concerns arising concerning an apparent fusion of these disciplines.
Photography is seen by some as simply the recording of information about an objective external world – as if something were out there waiting to made into an image. For others it is a surrealist discipline, which at its best explores the nature of reality, whilst at its most base uses understanding of individual psychology to manipulate the behavior of others.
Zen too is thought of as a means to know reality. Westernized culture often seems debase it into little more than a marketing slogan denoting some kind of simplicity.
‘A well studied, succinct, and experienced comprehension of the path to seeing while knowing and knowing while seeing how to visually construct a photograph.
Jack Fulton, Emeritus Professor in Photography
San Francisco Art Institute
‘Stephen Bray writes a travelogue about his voyage and search for meaning and inspiration.
‘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.’
Michael John Eldridge, Former Head of Post-graduate Studies in Photography
The Arts University, Bournemouth
‘Stephen has given us a privileged view of his journey, with its twists, turns and cul-de-sacs, rich in doubt, poor in certainty. It makes us see the poverty of most of the photography we view on a daily basis, its technical brilliance but spiritual emptiness.’
Jeremy Dent – Social Media Correspondent
King’s Langley, Buckinghamshire
‘At once fresh, witty, informative, challenging and always absorbing, Stephen has given us more than a glimpse of how we can see photography as a path to awakening.’
Colin Tracy – Photographer and Buddhist
‘The author writes in his own personal voice, sharing with us experiences, feelings, responses, and reactions from a particular perspective. Though autobiographical, it is nonetheless highly instructive.’
Zen has its roots firmly embedded in Buddhism. In many ways, and particularly within the Soto School it, perhaps, represents Buddhism in its purist form. Without a knowledge of the basic tenets of the religion to combine the concepts of Photography and Zen in one volume misleads.
Unlike photography Buddhism has a long and colorful history. As a discipline it always encouraged the absorption of other, more ancient, traditions within local practices. In Tibet it incorporated a form of Shamanism, whilst in China it adopted ideas from Taoism, before that became sullied.
In America, and elsewhere, influences of Tibetan Buddhism appear within the narrative of Contemplative Photography.
The first part of Photography and Zen attempts to both provide you with some background knowledge of Buddhism and Zen, so that you may make knowledgeable choices about what elements of understanding to incorporate in photographic practice, whilst deciding which to discard.
The second part of Photography and Zen describes my early struggles as a photographer to come to terms with the techniques, whilst exploring my own nature.
I have added some exercises to this section, which are designed to enable you to experience something like my processes. These, however, should not be thought of as meditation practices like those of practicing Buddhists, but rather as life experiments situated within the discipline of photography.
The publisher wrote on the book’s page at Amazon.com: ‘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.’
It is written from the perspective of life being a fabric of unbroken wholeness that we may directly experience in each moment. I live from this perspective, but still experience frustration when making photographs that directly convey beingness. Most do not experience life in this way due to the ways in which completeness filters itself. For this reason the words of the book, like a good photograph, hint at something sublimely obvious, but which we hide under the bushel of pressures lived in an apparent pressured digital age.
Photography and Zen: Discovering your true nature through photography is available in softback, or on Amazon Kindle. To purchase click the appropriate link and then, if necessary, you can easily change the .com suffix to your local Amazon store, (eg. .co.uk, .jp, .fr) and order.