Sit down with a group of photographers and the conversation immediately revolves around gear. It’s about the piece of kit we just bought and the gear we’d like to buy. It’s about rumors about what the next best thing will be. It might not lead to anything that helps to improve our photography, but admittedly the conversations are so much fun.
However, it’s often been those conversations that have to do with process, which delve into the why of what we do which has left me inspired to pick up a camera and make photographs. It’s a conversation not often found in books, which are largely dedicated to deciphering the gear we lust over. But when such a book comes out, it can be a refreshing and enlightening alternative to what’s out there.
Effortless Beauty by photographer Julie DeBose explores a way of seeing, rather than dedicating time to a camera’s bells and whistles. Instead, she delves deeply into our unique way of seeing the world and how that can translate into effective and beautiful photographs.
Based on the principles of Miksang, which is a Tibetan word meaning Good Eye. It’s a contemplative, meditative approach to photography that allows a photographer to tap into a way of seeing that isn’t burdened by judgement, or negative thinking about what’s happening before, during or after the shutter has been released.
The book identifies that there are a lot of things that are learned as we develop our photographic knowledge. It’s not just about f-stops and shutter speeds, it’s also a sensibility to what we see. Though much of this is good, there is also some thinking which interferes with our ability to see and to respond.
The book, which is illustrated with a beautiful collection of images, demonstrates how the practice of true seeing helps to reveal subject matter in even the most ordinary of circumstances. The photographs confirm that it’s not so much the subject matter or the equipment which is truly important. Instead, it’s the way we choose to evaluate the world around us with or without the camera.
Though the book has moments when it seems a bit repetitive, the information is delivered in clear and thoughtful way. Throughout my reading of the book, I applied some of its principles to photographs under the most ordinary of circumstances. I was able to put aside my familiarity with my house and see it with a new set of eyes. It resulted in a collection of images that I would likely have never considered otherwise.
Effortless Beauty offers a photographer a great resource for learning how to work with whatever equipment they already have.
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