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Monday, April 17, 2017

The Practice of Contemplative Monograph Reading

I decided to try an experiment, based on the ideas of Miksang which I talked about here.

I don't know about you, but for me going through a photography monograph can be a bit of a chore. A pleasant one, but nonetheless a chore. I try to discern the overall "logic" of the book, struggle with what the artist is "going for" and so on. There is the inevitable repetition to drive points home. I'm always looking for the ways one picture related to another, and so on. I do it because it's worth it, because I am deeply interested in these things.

Last night I picked up American Photographs with the intent of using the Miksang approach to seeing the world on the book.

Calm the mind, relax. Open yourself.

Leaf through the book at the relaxed pace of the flâneur, letting the eyes roam gently, freely.

Take each picture in, gently, easily.

When something catches your eye, specifically, "put in the clutch" or "stop pedaling" and mentally coast, still looking.

Without naming things, without analyzing, let the vision roam over whatever it is that caught the eye, and then outward across the frame.

When you're done, move on to the next picture.

First and foremost, it was a very enjoyable experience. There was still discipline involved. Aha, his white hat caught my eye, he looks shifty and... stop it! Stop naming things and just look! but the experience was more relaxed than my usual studious approach.

While I am not really sure, I suspect that the end impression is similar to that produced by a close reading. A lot of details get lost, perhaps? At the end, I think I will know what I saw, but I am less likely to know why.

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