The Contemplative Photography of Andy Karr
With a life-long passion for photography and a deep interest in teachings on the nature of mind and perception, contemplative photographer Andy Karr trained intensively with two of the great founding teachers of Western Buddhism—Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In this slideshow, Andy Karr shares his contemplative vision and philosophy through words and pictures.
The practice of contemplative photography emphasizes seeing clearly rather than focusing on technique. It encourages a unique approach to perceiving what is, an approach that offers Buddhist, or mindful, practices of nonjudgmental observation and insight. The aim is to reveal not just better photographs, but also greater insight into our way of being in, and seeing, the world around us.
“At the core,” Andy Karr explains, “contemplative photography is about seeing clearly, and replicating what you see with your camera. As soon as you think about improving what you see, seeing is covered over by thought. That's how mind works.”
Andy Karr is coauthor of The Practice of Contemplative Photography, a visually stunning celebration of the ordinary world—a white cloud in a blue sky, shoes with a dusting of snow, a man walking with a cup of coffee.
Karr’s photos reveal that it is not so much the subject that makes an exceptional photograph, but rather how we see it—and photograph it.
As Andy Karr explains, the contemplative approach is training in seeing clearly.
“Staying with the original perceptions is a key element of the contemplative photography practice…letting go of the desire to improve anything. Instead, rest gently with the perception and let it clarify itself...You don't need to do a lot of thinking about what you are seeing."
“When you have an idea about what you are trying to shoot,” says Andy Karr, “you are relating to an idea of a thing, rather than the direct experience of perception...If you can emphasize fresh seeing, and not worry about taking the best photos, you will gradually become a much better photographer.”
“It might take months or years to fully click into the contemplative approach,” Andy Karr points out. “From that point on, you will be able to guide yourself. The most important thing is to enjoy the journey, even at times when it involves working through frustration.”