What is meant by ‘reality’? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable—now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now in a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying. It overwhelms one walking home beneath the stars and makes the silent world more real than the world of speech—and there it is again in an omnibus in the uproar of Piccadilly. Sometimes, too, it seems to dwell in shapes too far away for us to discern what their nature is. But whatever it touches, it fixes and makes permanent. That is what remains over when the skin of the day has been cast into the hedge; that is what is left of past time and of our loves and hates.
— Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The basic principle of photography is viewing things as they are in their own ordinary nature. It is very simple and direct.
— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Click below to go to

First Thought, Best Thought

 A Slide Show of Selected Photographs by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The phenomenal world is self-existing. You can see it, you can look at it, you can appreciate your survey, and you can present your view to others. It is possible to discover the inherent state of things. It is possible to perceive how the world hangs together. It is possible to communicate your appreciation to others. The possibility of freshness is always there. Your mind is never totally contaminated by your neuroses. Goodness is always there. Catch it on the spot. Click into the sense of delight that comes from basic wakefulness.
— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Henri Cartier-Bresson

To take photographs means... putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

Creativity can be understood, in essence, to be the practice of our own nature and that nature’s expression. You may find your way in to the nature through creativity; or you may come out from the nature to express creativity. Both have to be appreciated as the best of our mind’s potential.
— Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

A talk on art and meditation called Natural Vitality by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche from his exhibit of his paintings at Tibet House, New York, 2008:

A short film that captures Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche as he paints in the abstract expressionist tradition:

See more of his work at

The Practice of Contemplative Photography by Andy Karr & Michael Wood

Read the first three chapters free here.

Andy Karr talks about the principles of contemplative photography and gives a look inside the book:

Michael Wood speaks about his own experience with contemplative photography:

Saul Leiter

Seeing is a neglected enterprise
— Saul Leiter
Click on the photo to go to a gallery of Saul Leiter's photos

Click on the photo to go to a gallery of Saul Leiter's photos

Vivian Maier

Click here to go to the website of her wonderful photographs.

A trailer for the documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier,  about her life & work:

To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.
— Paul Valéry

The Practice of Contemplative Photography in a Nutshell from Seeing Fresh

The key to the practice of contemplative photography is to recognize that seeing and thinking are very different. Thinking relates to the world through ideas and mental images. Seeing perceives things directly, just as they are. Clear seeing is not covered over by thoughts of beautiful and ugly, good and bad, worthwhile and worthless.

We usually navigate out lives by thinking about where we are going, where we have been, what we are doing, what we hope for, and what we fear. This inner monologue overshadows most of our experience. Every now and then there are gaps in the flow of discursiveness where fresh perceptions shine through, but generally we gloss over them quite quickly. In contemplative photography, we call these fresh moments flashes of perception. Learning to recognize and value these moments of sense perception is the first part of contemplative photography practice.

Flashes of perception are simple, vivid, and direct experiences. They are clear seeing (or hearing, smelling, tasting, touching). In contemplative photography the power of the final photograph comes from joining clear seeing with simple, straightforward expression.

To communicate what you have seen powerfully and accurately, you need to be able to rest with the perception. The second part of this practice is called visual discernment. This is the way you maintain the contemplative state of mind: you stay with the perception in a soft, inquisitive way, without struggle. Although we call it discernment, this stage is not at all intellectual or analytical. You are not figuring things out, or evaluating the scene emotionally, nor are you reaching for your camera to capture anything.

The third part of the practice is forming the equivalent of the perception (this is the great photographer, Alfred Stieglitz’s term). The photograph and the perception are obviously different things, but our aim is to produce an image that is just the equivalent to what we see. We do not try to make the photograph more interesting, more dramatic, or anything else.

Go to Seeing Fresh for contemplative photography assignments and submissions.