Friday, October 13, 2006

Miksang: Level 2

Hi there,

I just wanted to let you chaps know that I am in the midst of Level 2 of Miksang. Gareth and Bishop may find this 'double dutch' and Ivan may sigh. For Gareth and Bishop, I can direct you to the website which will tell you all - Ivan, just bear with me.

Anyways, the course runs through to Monday eve. so I will post some images during and after the course.



Ivan said...

Hi Damian

Miksang, level 2...oh joy!! Joking apart, my previous comments were definitely on the positive side and expressed interest in this style of photography. Where my interest pales is where we get pictures of crisp packets in dappled morning sun, passing as "art"....

Go on, prove me wrong!

Gareth Marlow said...

Mmm. Crisps.


Critical Light said...


Well, I can't 'prove' that the images we create are 'art'. Too loaded. But what is interesting is this: When Monet began painting his 'impressions', other painters looked at the work and disregarded it as 'art'. These impression painters, who follow the same line of Miksang by painting their 'impressions' without rules, received bad reviews and were largely ignored as painters for sometime.

When Michael Wood (the Miksang teacher) presents his work at photography societes, most of the men just don't get it and write him off. The women all see it and understand.

Yesterday we were talking about this and it was taken, that we are all artists, photography is an art and these images of Miksang are another 'view' of that art...even a crisp packet on the street bathed in sun...actually especially that. In fact, if you don't understand that image, then you don't understand Miksang. When I asked '...are we artists?..' I just got looks as though to say...of course...and that there are photographers who think not, along with the look 'that some photographers just don't get it'.

The Japanese Haiku poets write Miksang poems, which are very much unlike other poems. Miksang permeates many other arts.

When I shoot Miksang, all the 'rules' of photography go out of the window. I even put my camera on 'P' so I can maintain my focus. I just shoot what I feel from my gut. Whether you use a brush with paint on it, write words on paper, or hold a camera and shoot, to me they are all styles of art.

But what I liked best from this brief discussion was Michael Wood's comments, and it sort of sums up Miksang,...'who cares'...


Ivan said...

I think there's a difference between something new, revolutionary and different - but having substance and skill - being not immediately accepted by the cognescenti, and something that is also different, but which takes little/no creative insight or substance to realise.

I know photography can sit uncomfortably on the border between representational art and reality - and therefore has it's own unique place, making us look at reality or a snapshot of it - but I think subject matter with photography is everything. Hence my rather off-the-cuff, but valid, example of the crisp packet in morning sun; what is valid, new, different, challenging or creative in that? You can see anything you like in an image (for the crisps, the wasteful society, the transientness of the crisps against the rhythmic certainty of the sun and it's life-giving properties), but that's just bollocks that I made up on the spot, and can be applied to any observational shot, and does not in itself mean a creative process has taken place.

I admit I am sceptical, so I look forward to Damian's portfolio of Misksang photography - with explanatory notes - to make it all clearer...


Critical Light said...

OK. I really enjoy this type of discussion on the blog and even more so because there are different viewpoints.

But I think I may have to leave early on this one because I don't think I can get across the essence of the Miksang style of photography.

In Miksang, you shoot something that 'stops' you, an image (...a perception) that you can feel inside you. It doesn't matter if the image is crap, if others can not understand it; it doesn't try to be anything. There is no concept to it. It all comes from inside you and you try to capture that perception on film, or as paint on canvas, or as words on paper.

The style is not new; Edward Weston and Andre Kertesz shot in this style. Monet had four cameras and shot his 'impressions' which influenced his paintings; as did other impressionist painters.

So, Miksang stands alone in photography because it doesn't abide by rules, doesn't attempt to be anything or to create anything new. It doesn't care. It just exists. Some people see and feel it, others see it and some don't see anything at all; largely because they are trapped in a world where concepts are needed to see.

Indeed, in Level One, you spend four days breaking down your concepts/ideas of what should be. In Level Three you breakdown your Miksang training so in the end you shoot without any constraints.

I will post what I think are my best Miksang images from the four days. Just to demonstrate the style...

phew...let's talk about something else...


Ivan said...

I think I get it now, or at least am comfortable with the fact that the image is not pretending to be anything other than something that the photographer felt moved to capture. I looked on your Guru's website, and a lot of his images seem indistinguishable from the sort of cropped detail shots that one sees on other websites and publications. They seem to obey the rule of thirds etc, which seems to fly in the face of something stopping you and just shooting: he must have composed the image, and therefore does it not become more than a gut recording, but also has elements of photographic/artistic bias? Discuss.... ;-)

Critical Light said...

Hi there,

Well, during the Level One course, I noticed the same thing. His photos appear to have good composition. I asked whether he composed his shots, even on a sub-conscious level. And he replied, after much thought might I add, that there might be a small element of that but generally, no.

I know that when I shoot I don't think about looking for a good composition. I just look directly at that perception, work out what stopped my mind and therefore what should be in the photo, identify the boundaries and then I raise the camera and shoot. People who haven't studied photography tend to shoot well composed images as well. I do believe though that there is an element of getting a good composition. However, after saying that, when you see your perception you need to hold it, to focus on it in order to 'feel' it and identify what stopped you. I have found that any critical thought of whether it is a good photo, causes the perception to crumble. We have also been taught that if you find yourself struggling to get the perception on film, due to difficult light or not being able to isolate the perception, you should just walk away, because there are millions of perceptions.

Might I also add, that the chap who developed this style (a highly respected buddhist lama (no Ivan not a camel)), did not know how to operate his camera effectively, nor never studied photography. He just shot what he saw. It is therefore not surprising that most people who take this course are buddhists that meditate each day. I was the odd one out.

These shots/images/perceptions are quite often very tight. So they appear cropped but they are not, other than removing the odd distraction. But, Ivan, you are looking at these images too critically. They are not trying to be anything. They are just a perception that he had at that moment in time.

You need to drop the critique to appreciate these shots, Mr Critical Eye!

So, when you look at a Miksang photo, ignore eveything you know about photography; about labels, about good and bad. As soon as those thoughts enter your mind, stop them and kick them out. Just try to let the photo develop emotions inside you. The light, the colour, the texture, the sense of a fleeting moment, the sadness of it disappearing.

Yes, it is very softy softy, but that is Miksang. That is how these fleeting perceptions are captured.

You know, once you study Miksang, you will never look at the world the same again. Suddenly, there is so much to see, eveywhere, all the time. You see and feel so much beauty around you that the thought of applying the concepts of photography to these images makes you laugh.

Now, I have plenty of room for Miksang but I still have the ability to turn that off and take shots that are enveloped in concepts. Note that you really do have to make an effort to turn it off. I did that recently in Montreal. However, Miksang also makes you take better photographs in general.

OK. I need to do some more work...

It would be great if you could understand what Miksang is, so just bombard me with questions and I will answer...(even though I can see you and Kate having a good giggle in the pub; or rather on the sofa with Abigail)