"Mysteriously, wonderfully, I bid farewell to what goes, I greet what comes; for what comes cannot be denied, and what goes cannot be detained," wrote Chuang-tzu over 2,000 years ago. This art of acceptance and living in the present moment has great value in reference to photography, according to Philippe L. Gross, editor in chief of the International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, and S. I. Shapiro, Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii.
Using 70 black-and-white photographs and a smorgasbord of insightful comments by well-known photographers, the authors make a good case for applying the ancient wisdom of Taoism to this contemporary art form. One of the most pernicious barriers to true seeing, observed Chuang-tzu, is being enslaved to preconceived ideas or practices. "Leap into the boundless and make it your home," he said. When Michael Smith was asked what he looks for in his photograph, he replied: "I am not looking for anything. I'm just looking — trying to have as full an experience as possible. The point is to have a full experience — to photograph is just a bonus."
Gross and Shapiro salute this kind of relaxed approach and tie it to the Taoist principle of wu-wei, which has been interpreted as not forcing things or not trying to make things happen. The best photography often results from an accepting attitude toward all aspects of life. Or as Henri Cartier-Bresson put it: "In photography the smallest thing can be a good subject." The last chapter, "The Path of Conscious Camerawork," brings it all together as the authors ponder the Taoist lessons of seeing beyond seeing.