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'Chance favors the prepared mind': the landscape photographs of Zeng Yicheng

By A. D. Coleman | | Updated: 2018-03-26 11:16
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Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. -- Zen proverb

The Internet of Rivers and Mountains, by Zeng Yicheng. [Photo provided to]

Photography involves a process of interpretation, in which a technological medium grounded in the laws of physics and chemistry serves as translator, interposed between the observer -- the photographer or, as surrogate, the viewer -- and the subject of that observation.

But, its scientific and mechanistic basis notwithstanding, photography can also function as a form of, or a vehicle for, meditation -- as what, in Buddhism, one calls spiritual practice. Buddhist teaching proposes that almost any mundane activity can serve, or be woven into, the daily practice of this philosophy and a way of life based on it. Moreover, photography as both a medium and a process has characteristics that lend themselves to the development of mindfulness and other requisites of enlightenment and wisdom: immersion in the present moment, alertness to the flow of events before one's eyes, awareness of the transience of any given moment, acceptance of the constancy of change.

Those understandings shape the work of Zeng Yicheng, who approaches this medium as the basis for a contemplative relationship between himself and the world, a relationship into which he invites his viewers.

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