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What inspired you initially to engage in contemplative photography?
I do not remember exactly but till 2012 or so I had never heard this term. I was a typical amateur photographer with a big DSL and a number of lenses taking photos of everything around myself and trying to find my own style. There was a particular plot of the photos that attracted me most but it was something I could not describe with words and something that was not understood by the most of the friends I showed my photos to. I still continued to take these «weird» photos - color combinations, light&shadow plays, and so on. Looking back there I now know the words I could not find at that times - I was making more photos of my feelings and emotions rather that of particular objects.
Couple of years ago I was browsing internet looking for new inspirations. I do not exactly remember where and how I first saw the description of contemplative photography or Miksang. But right after staring to know it I realized that I have finally found the great explanation in words of what I was feeling and actually already practicing in a way. The more I was reading about it, the more happy I was feeling. I started to look through other photographs made in this technique that definitely helped me a lot inspiring me for more practice. Since then I actually almost stopped taking photos of anything else. For sure I take photos of some signature views when I travel or sometimes I love take photos of my friends or my three dogs - but now these photos take no more than 20% of what I have in my archive. Comptemplative photography has become my passion, my inspiration and my escape from daily routine since then.
What does contemplative photography mean to you? How often do you practice it?
To start with, as I have just said above - it is a great escape from the daily routine. Practicing contemplative photography helps me to stop, breath fully and look around noticing minor beauties in everything around. This bring my mind a soul in a great state of calmness, happiness and gives the feeling of being here and now. And, in its turn, being it such state of mind and soul helps to "re-charge" and see the life around in brighter colors. I can easily say that contemplative photography is my meditation.
I try to do it daily. Unfortunately, I cannot say it happens every day in reality. But I try. For me it is sometimes easier to practice the contemplative photography in the mornings. I go to the garden it the morning hours when the sun is already up but not too high. The garden is changing daily depending on weather, light, time of the day or the season giving me plots for new photos again and again. Sometimes I change the morning walk to an afternoon one (instead of «5 o’clock tea» if I were an English lady, huh) when the sun is starting to set down but is still high enough to create beautiful light.
Another place of inspiration is the light and shadow play happening within the house. For example I can be busy typing an important e-mail or having a call with a client but with the corner of my eye I notice a shadow play that I love. At this moment I try to remember the time and come back to this place next day with a camera in my hands.
When I travel it is easier for sure. I have less stress and less inner dialogue - so I notice beauties around more often. Still there are times when I can walk a lot without taking any photos because I just do not want to - and this is also OK. I say to myself that at such times I am just absorbing inspiration for next shooting.
Has contemplative photography affected your everyday experiences - if so, in what way?
Yes, for sure. I just mentioned it above - now I try to find a moment every day to take a photo or just to see and remember some pictures for later in case I do not have the camera at hand.
I can now say that the best thing the contemplative photography is doing for me is making me feel good. It is a nice feeling when other people like my photos or are inspired by them as well but this is not really always important. The photos in contemplative photography style are representation of my feeling and emotions. Thanks to this type of photography I have found a way to express and share my emotions in a way that is understandable for others and this is one of the biggest advantages of such photography for me.
What do you find most challenging when doing contemplative photography?
Stop the inner dialogue, stop thinking "I need to make great pictures, I have to find something interesting, I must". To relax and enjoy. It is easier to do when I am traveling or having vacations. But this happens not that often and the photography is something one should do daily. So sometimes it is quite hard to break through the routine and to immerse yourself in the pure perception of the beauty around. When you manage to do this - it is all easy and fun, it is like a dance. You look around, you do not think about the objects, you just perceive them as they are in their pure beauty.
Name a few photographers who in your opinion best represent contemplative photography
I try to but unfortunately I cannot remember how exactly this wonderful journey started for me and when I first heard the term «contemplative photography». I was discovering several names and works more or less at the same time and I cannot recall who was the first now. Maybe it was Julie DuBosee, the founder of the Institute of Miksang and author of Effortless Beauty. Also one of the brightest representatives of this direction for me is Kimberly Poppe whose photos I discovered at 500px.com https://500px.com/KimberlyPoppe. I also follow several photographers on Instagram (Yuri Bitter) - I found them by hashtags or they found me and followed and I discovered their profiles. And for sure - The Practice of Contemplative Photography gave me a lot of inspiration and helped to find the right words for my feelings about the photography. I remember finding it at Amazon - I was attracted by the picture at the cover and felt like it was something I definitely need to check even before I read the name and annotation.
For me these names were the ones that brought the contemplative photography into my life and I continue to watch their works closely.
Are there any websites / blogs you often visit for inspiration? What is your favorite photography album (book)?
Your website for sure. I am also subscribed to your Facebook page for daily inspiration. I also often go to 500px.com to look through my Flow (the authors I am subscribed to) or just search by hashtags like #abstract #minimal #miksang and alike. And I do the same at Instagram to discover new names.
I have several photo albums and photography books at home and I love to look them again and again from time to time searching for inspiration. Although they are not that much about contemplative photography - they inspire me to look at the world around and see thing at the new angles. These are mostly the photo albums of my favorite photo masters (strangely enough, they are not about contemplative photography at all but they inspire me with their view of life) - Erwitt Elliott (my most favorite photographer), Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Vivian Maier, André Kertész. I also love to look at works of painters - mostly from Expressionism period - my favorite one is Wassily Kandinsky.
What advice / starting points would you give to someone who might be interested to explore contemplative photography?
Be yourself and do what makes you feel good. If you have chosen photography as your creativity tool - try to express your inner world and emotions through it, whatever they are. If you are honest with yourself and with what you do, this will show at your photos and will emotionally attract people to them.
Is there anything else you would like to share on this topic?
Thank you for the inspiration and support that you and the participants of this community have given to me :)
Would you like to share the link for your website / blog?
If you want to see a lot of my photography - please subscribe to my Instagram, I post where almost daily http://instagram.com/karaulich.
You can also see and buy some of my photos here https://500px.com/karastreet. Not everything is there, I publish new works there once in a while. To see my first photo book, Contemplative Photography, please go to http://bit.ly/miksang_by_ak
Anna Karaulova is based in Moscow region, Russia. She is a PR and Marketing professional and does photography as a hobby. Anna discovered contemplative photography a couple of years ago and since then it is her true passion.