On February 13th, photographer and educator David Ulrich published his book, Zen Camera: Creative Awakening with a Daily Practice in Photography.
Ulrich’s philosophy revolves around the idea that “Creativity arises from stillness”. This theory has been the foundation of his classroom as well as his photography since the 1970s.
At first, this mix of meditation and photography might seem a little silly. Images of fourty-year-old women mumbling “ohm” on yoga mats might come to mind. You might think that you simply don’t have time to engage in a meditative lifestyle. The world is fast paced and, as an artist, god knows you have to work fast in order to survive.
But meditative thought could be essential to the way that you go about photography; it could renew and focus your perspective, and make you more effective with your art.
Ulrich believes that the most significant failure of modern times is that we are all too distracted. You know this. You know that you spend too much time on your phone, and you keep convincing yourself that you’ll pull away, but what then? You’d feel like an outcast!
Distraction has become an integral part of society, and we’re all aware of it. Many of us have accepted it, but Ulrich has warned against this train of thought. When people are too willing to submit to a distracted mind, they will keep themselves from reaching their highest potential in art and critical thought.
So in order to truly grow as artists and students, we can’t be passive learners. We have to be able to take a thought and turn it over and over again in our minds. We have to be able to sit and think about one thing for a long period of time. This stillness, this ability to think and contemplate, is key to Ulrich’s philosophy regarding photography.
Ulrich’s novel teaches the reader how to avoid passive sight. He teaches his students to go out and truly take in their surroundings. To not just take the picture, but contemplate why the image has affected you. He also teaches the “TMP” method, which stands for “Take more pictures”. The most effective artists are the ones who practice their hand every day, and develop a deft sight for what inspires them.
When you know what inspires you, the composition of your images will come easier. More clearheaded and aware, you’ll be able to sift through the complexities (the meaning behind the piece, the motivation behind the image), and take images that are true to their form, and true to how they make you feel.
So even if you’ve never been interested in yoga or calculated breathing, bringing meditation to your photography could be worth a try.
You can learn more about Ulrich’s philosophy on his website.
Feature photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash