Reviewer June Maffin:Living on an island in British Columbia, Canada, Dr. Maffin is a neophyte organic gardener, eclectic reader, ordained minister (Anglican/Episcopal priest) and creative spirituality writer/photographer with a deep zest for life. Previously, she has been grief counselor, broadcaster, teacher, journalist, television host, chaplain and spiritual director with an earned doctorate in Pastoral Care (medical ethics i.e. euthanasia focus). Presently an educator, freelance editor, blogger, and published author of three books, her most recent (Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality) has been published in e-book as well as paperback format and a preview can be viewed on YouTube videos. Founder of Soulistry™ she continues to lead a variety of workshops and retreats connecting spirituality with creativity and delights in a spirituality of play. You can find out more about June by clicking on her Web Site.
Publisher: Orange Palm Publications
Publisher: Orange Palm Publications
What is Transformative Photography? Is it a unique approach to photography? Is it the same as/similar to Miksang Photography, Contemplative Photography, Healing Art Photography or Creative Spirituality Photography? Is it something else?
Opening the pages of the book, I was excited and looking forward to viewing examples of a new perspective on photography and learning how one becomes a transformative photographer. The author of this book notes that the transformative photographer must “approach his <sic> subject with a comprehensive, evolutionary, detached by warm love, coupled with humor and an ability to leave things unaltered and fundamentally free.” According to Simhananda, the transformative photographer's journey is one of “passionately participating in the world and all that is with a commonly shared sense of wonder, awe and joy” … and he further notes that “there is nothing ordinary and nothing extraordinary - precisely what the transformative photographer or photographer with a spiritual eye wishes to share intimately with others.”
Clarity escaped me in his phrasing, so I looked further. As the author has written books on photography and a Buddhist-based spirituality (primarily from the perspective of 12th century Tibetan master Gampopa), I anticipated an explanation of how photography might be “transformative” and nurture the soul. Perhaps it would happen via the combination of photography and the practice of meditation along the lines of Miksang photography (based on the Tibetan teachings of the scholar and meditation master Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche) and the photographs would clearly indicate the transformative element. The author’s encouragement that “the viewer embarks upon a symbolic journey to reflect more deeply on life” only served to bring about further confusion because of the lack of a clear and specific description.
In his photography, Simhananda seeks to demonstrate what he understands to be the “just Is-ness of life, people, line and color in their purest sense and in their natural atmosphere reminding the reader that ordinariness is really nothing short of extraordinary.” But questions arise - what distinguishes these photographs from other photographs? - how are his photographs transformative?
Photographer and blogger Joerg Colberg defines Transformative Photography as that which “changes you as a person … and you’re not the same person after you’ve looked at it.” This book is replete with lovely photos, but none bring a sense of ‘change’ (Colberg’s term) or ‘transformation’ (Simhananda’s term) more than any other book of beautiful photographs.
The continual and exclusive use of the masculine pronoun throughout the book; an inappropriate and overuse of commas; as well as complicated phrasing (e.g. “Engaging the reader in this rather abstract line of thinking about photography, I am obviously venturing a wee far from the usual teaching manuals or text books, on the aforesaid subject and must perforce feed, or resource myself, upon alternative sources of genuine inspiration, or other forms of transformative persuasions”) limits the readability of this book.
As for presentation – the large, hardcover book is presented in a coffee table book style and is professionally produced. If you are looking for a book that will explain Transformative Photography in understandable language and demonstrate the technique in and through the actual photographs in the book, this is not the book for you.
If you want a coffee table book filled with lovely photographs for your office waiting room or living room without specific connection to the book’s title, then this is the book for you.