Photography as Meditation by Torsten Andreas Hoffmann

The book is one part discussion on emptying the mind and one part discussion on photography. The author uses examples from his portfolio to illustrate various yoga or zen techniques to achieve the purpose of clarity of vision. If you want to focus on the basics of an image, free of distractions from your own mind, this might be a good read for you. But if you are of a more skeptical mindset, you’ll find this to book to be a lot of hooey. As well, note that this is intended for mature, very experienced photographers, not beginner or intermediate. You can’t clear your mind if you are trying to figure out settings for aperture or finding a comp.


Contents:  Thoughts on photography and meditation; Intriguing ideas about zen philosoophy; Zen is not “light”; The practice of zazen; Mysticism and thoughts about the absence of God; Eastern and western thought; file drawers and direct experience; Anecdote; Is photography a life experienced second hand; Photography as a direct experience; Duality dissolved; Studium and punctum; Impression and expression; What is depth, or the secret of the night; Inner and outer landscapes; The alleged objectivity of photography; Basic moods expressed; Representing beauty without being shallow; Photography as a puzzle; Street photography; Creating special magic; Photography as ink painting; Magic in the detail; Abstractions; What is creativity?; Image design perceived during meditation; Subsequent critical analysis and interpretation; The path to your own style.

The chapters are only a few pages each with 1-2 page spreads of the author’s photographs. Most discussions are about how the author uses Buddhist teachings, zen meditation, and yoga to clear his mind to see only the essence of an area and how to photograph it. There are pages of different meditation/zen techniques but nothing really concrete (no pun intended) for a photographer to create a regimen.

A lot of the images felt like they were culled to fit the examples of his discussions rather than the products of the techniques he is eschewing. There are some good photography nuggets in there but mostly it is pretty images and a lot of nebulous discussions.

I find this pretty hard to rate. Quieting the mind is something that most photographers, especially beginner to intermediate, need in order to slow down and get the right shot. The problem here is that this book is for advanced photographers – those that don’t need to think through techniques such as setting up the right aperture or framing elements in a composition.  So it’s a bit of a catch 22 – by the time a photographer has learned to not have to worry about settings, he/she is already advanced enough to have quieted their mind.

I think this might be more of a ‘preaching to the choir’ target audience, who will all love it.  Everyone else will likely hate it.

Reviewed from an ARC.

This entry was posted in ARC, Book Reviews, non fiction, Photography. Bookmark the permalink.

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