Contemplative Photography 

-Pema Choedon Lama, from Nepal

In Camera lucidia by Barthers, the focus of photography is referred to one- pointedness of meditation. In photography, while focusing on the object, we tend to draw attention to that particular object, and we stay present centered until we get that shot. This is one of the ways through which one can contemplate through photography. There are also several other aspects similar to this such as the flash as the slash of light that illuminates time and so forth. One of the contemplative aspects one can learn through photography is the aspect of impermanence. 

This aspect was also a huge part of my project for Buddhist Art Course. In our world, every second people are dying somewhere. Although our life seems repetitive, the greatest change one can see is the absence of someone. In Camera Lucidia, Barthes based this article on his own life and his mother’s death. He was traumatized by her death, but through this trauma he realized that, the photographs of her mother were not a memory of her but the reminder of all death. This explains that we all need to die sooner or later. We can also refer to this impermanence with moments. The moment that we are exactly in will not be the same after that moment. A very famous analogy of Buddha, we cannot touch the same river. Similarly, the moment in our life passes every time either noticeably or unnoticeably. This aspect of impermanence is also very important principle in Buddhism. Everything in this world is impermanent and if one gets attached to it, then it causes suffering to us. 

This was something that inspired me throughout my project. Through photography one can ascertain and contemplate many important principles of Buddhism and life in general. My practical projects were highly influenced by these principles. Most of my photographs represent what I see every day in life and the most important thing I realized was the impermanence aspect. In this midst of COVID 19 millions of people lost their life. And one of them was my relative. The death tolls were just a number until his sudden demise. This was very heartbreaking but also a reminder for all of us that nothing is certain. I went to Pashupatinath temple, a very famous Hindu temple. There were lots of ambulances coming and going. There were also not enough places to burn the dead bodies. This really struck me. Looking at those flames of the fire and the wood burning was hypnotizing. It made me think that our strings and memories are still attached with the person who died but their basis for attachment is burnt into flames. Indeed, everything is impermanent, and we shall take this opportunity to understand and remind ourselves of all death. Through this exploration, I was also able to meditate upon exchanging self and others. It is a very important meditation in Buddhism. In this meditation, one exchanges them with any object of compassion and visualizes taking their sufferings. I applied this meditation while I was doing photography of street life. My focus was street life; since those were the people, I would always see but never noticed. This whole process of contemplative photography was an eye- opening experience for me. There were a lot of technical aspects that I learnt through this process. I drew a lot of inspirations from everyday life and my surroundings. The photographs I clicked represent what I see almost every day. 

Although, they are always appearing in front of me, I have never had the alertness and time to closely look over it. This process of contemplative photography has opened a lens for me; a lens that appreciates its surroundings and is aware of it. 

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