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Discover Contemplative Photography

Published by Diana Tula · July 25th 2013

We love guest blog posts! Today’s article on contemplative photography is by Kimberly Poppe, hobbyist photographer from Lodève, France. Kimberly started to practice this genre after an inspirational talk with a friend and now she wants to share her experiences with you. Please enjoy...


Photo by Joni Jarvinen

What is contemplative photography?

Contemplative photography is a method of seeing and photographing the world in new ways. Integrating meditation into each image that you take. Along with it being great fun, this is a real practice of introducing reflection into the everyday — off the cushion and walk around the world. The practice is to see and photograph the world in new fresh ways, to reveal richness and beauty that is normally hidden from view. For example: capturing the beauty of shadows, elegance of lines or clash of colours, the elements which a passer by could just ignore to see. It is something anyone can try.


Photo by Nobuo Furuhashi

Introduction

When I was studying English literature, I remember being particularly struck by this passage in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own:

“What is meant by ‘reality’? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable—now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now in a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying. It overwhelms one walking home beneath the stars and makes the silent world more real than the world of speech—and there it is again in an omnibus in the uproar of Piccadilly. Sometimes, too, it seems to dwell in shapes too far away for us to discern what their nature is. But whatever it touches, it fixes and makes permanent. That is what remains over when the skin of the day has been cast into the hedge; that is what is left of past time and of our loves and hates.” 

I have always been slightly obsessed with those moments of “reality” and the idea that they could be less erratic and more dependable, which is part of what has led me to the practices of both meditation and photography. 

One day a friend of mine mentioned Contemplative Photography while talking about a book by Andy Karr & Michael Wood. My friend thought I would connect with it as my photographs naturally seemed to be leaning in this direction. What resonated with me was that it was a way to align photography (my creative outlet) with what I was trying to cultivate in my life. I was inspired that photography could actually be used as a way to be more fully present and as a way to be able to see and experience the world more freshly or more purely.

I used to photograph before I started practicing contemplative photography, but I feel like a beginner to both photography and contemplative photography still. There is so much to learn!


Photo by Kimberly Poppe

How to practice

When I started contemplative photography I used "Seeing Fresh" assignments as a guide. I have practiced those assignments often and continue to go back to them. I find that by simply trying to focus on either colour, or texture, or simplicity or light it brings a clarity and new perspective to both to my mind and my photographs.

I’d really encourage other 500px photographers to explore and play around with these tutorials and I look forward to seeing the effect that it has on their work.

Did my photographic style change after I started to practice contemplative photography? Yes and no. I still tend to veer towards abstraction, but since I started practicing contemplative photography it has brought me more into touch with my own natural ability to see (which we all have) and has given me more confidence in it.


Photo by Matt Hanson

Discoveries

Exercising contemplative photography has helped me to come to know my own mind more. I am more aware of how and when I judge something as “good” or “bad”, before I have even let myself experience it. I also notice more detail when I am seeking after what I perceive as a “good shot”—and the hopes and fears that can come with this—and by being so focused on achieving that “good shot” I miss the real shot that is right in front of my eyes. Through being more aware of my concepts, ideas, judgments, and thoughts, it has helped me in attempting to let go of all these concepts and be a bit more free in both my mind and my photography; even if just a little.


Photo by Angie McMonigal

Examples

After a bit of research and digging I have come across contemplative photographers on 500px. Some I found while searching for “contemplative photography” and “miksang” (which is Tibetan for “good eye”), and some I came across by accident. Some of my favourite contemplative photographers on 500px are: Sara Feld, Alexi Wiedemann-Orrego, Tasso Dikaios, Sharon Steele, Sebastian Reggiany, Anne-Laure Amayon and Yuri Bittar.

Whenever I see a “fresh” photograph I am immediately drawn to it and then I try to investigate the photographer’s work more. It is my real hope that more wonderful 500px photographers start to experiment with contemplative photography and I am really looking forward to seeing their work.

I talked to some of the contemplative photographers that I did find at 500px, but not as much as I would like to. What really interests me is the process that goes on in the mind of the photographer and what this practice can lead us to discover about ourselves. It is difficult to convey this information through writing comments or messages only. What I would also really like to know is how the viewer experiences contemplative photographs.

I can only imagine and hope that contemplative photography brings that same feeling of freshness, clarity and space to the mind of the viewer, even if just for a moment.


Photo by Kimberly Poppe

Thanks for reading. If you'd like to add Kimberly Poppe to friends visit her 500px page.

Looking for more guest posts? Take look at Your Camera Is The Key by Pete Collins and How To Get A Photo Pass for Concerts by Brad Moore. Do you want to write an article for our blog? Get in touch, email blog@500px.com.

Share your contemplative photos in the comments below!

     

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andy 126 (inactive)  5 months ago
Here are some examples of my recent work in this area:
PengertianPengertian
LarryGoss
Larry Goss  11 months ago
Once again, opens our eyes to all the fantastic subject matter that surrounds us - if we just take the time to look!
evakrejcifoto
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Eva Krejci  12 months ago
Very interesting and beautiful! Thank you for sharing!
almarkone
Algirdas Markevicius  12 months ago
Thank You very much for so interesting presentation of this style in photography, it's really are interesting ! Maybe some my photos are can be assigned to that style, but i can not even safely assume it :). Best regards !
stustustudio
Michael B. Stuart  12 months ago
Love this style!!!
Here are some of mine: http://500px.com/photo/40975360
http://500px.com/photo/37306816
http://500px.com/photo/35851256
http://500px.com/photo/27650581
daseffekt
Eric Bryan  about 1 year ago
I like the term, Contemplative Photography! I often refer to my landscapes as Meditative Landscape Photography. Photography can be a meditation, and a Contemplative approach goes perfectly with that. Great blog article!
MYoung2012
Marvin Young  about 1 year ago
Kimberly, this is EXACTLY what I needed to read as I transition a little from more than 20 years of a photojournalism approach. Thanks!
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Happy to hear Marvin! Hope you enjoy experimenting x
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Here is a wonderful short documentary about Henri Cartier-Bresson called "The Decisive Moment" that those interested in contemplative photography might also appreciate! Words and photos by him:

http://youtu.be/hyhMqDfmG9o

peterpanda
PEDRO FERNANDEZ  about 1 year ago
Kimberly's portfolio is awesome, this post is awesome... Thanks for these weekend's readings ;)
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thanks to Diana Tula for making this happen! : ) xxx
annkeel
Ann Keel (inactive)  about 1 year ago
love this! love the stories i can read in all of this... this is ART
thx for sharing!
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
: ) xxx
mpiet
Micha Pietsch  about 1 year ago
The interesting thing is: I notice some scenes and take pictures. Although these photos are not the ones I personally like the most, photos like http://500px.com/photo/41195278 are liked by lots of people. Often it's just a try when I upload them but I don't expect them to be liked. Then I am surprised.
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
That is interesting Micha! Would be curious to know more... My sense is those "flashes of perception" that we notice and capture are what others really resonate with as they have a real sense of authenticity to them.
milkphotography
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Michael Kuszla  about 1 year ago
Beautiful article. Really graphic selection of images.
milkphotography
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Michael Kuszla  about 1 year ago
You're welcome Kimberly. I trully love your portfolio! >_<
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thanks! Diana Tula chose the images—credit goes to her!
achal_p_shah
Achal Shah  about 1 year ago
Loved the article, thanks for the fresh perspective, I believe that might be the thing missing in my photos....
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Happy to hear it; look forward to seeing and hearing how your practice goes!
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Nicholas Travers  about 1 year ago
hmmm

sounds like photography to me

does every style need to be named?

KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Hi Nicholas and thanks for reading! Hmmm, no everything certainly doesn't need to be named. But whatever you call it, I'd be curious for you to try photographing in this way (especially if you are skeptical about it!) : http://seeingfresh.com/about/the-practice-in-a-nutshell. Is this how you normally photograph? Does it bring anything different to your work or not? I truly would be interested to hear, either way!
Katwine
Katerina Kuzmina  about 1 year ago
Very interesting and inspiring read! I will follow this route in my photography! Thank you, Kimberly. Love your photographs.
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Look forward to seeing! x
KayeBennett
Kaye Bennett  about 1 year ago
Thank you, Kimberly! Your article articulated something that I have intuitively been searching for in my photography adventures! Your photos are beautiful and inspiring!
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
I'm so happy to hear Kaye! I hope you continue to find and connect with this aspect more and more.
PaulKilgour
Paul Kilgour  about 1 year ago
Very interesting article Kimberly.
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thanks x
FernandoPinho
Fernando Pinho  about 1 year ago
fantastic work
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thank you Fernando!
preetpandya1
preet pandya  about 1 year ago
Hey can anyone tell me how do I sell my pictures?
Because I dont know how to do it. I've got a email that someone wants to purchase your pictures but the thing is how will pay me or how do I know who is he?
Help me ASAP
detula
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Diana Tula  about 1 year ago
Hey Preet! To sell you photo you need to enable Store. Here's how to do it:

http://support.500px.com/customer/portal/articles/410249

jowei13
Jose Enrique Padilla Gonzalez  about 1 year ago
http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8226/8476613781_e2279bc15a_o.jpg
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Interesting! Do you have any more posted on 500px?
Yogesh22
Yogesh Kumar  about 1 year ago
Im inspired after reading this article. Please take a look at my shots,

http://500px.com/photo/39143734

http://500px.com/photo/28923511

http://500px.com/photo/39143066

http://500px.com/photo/28921355

Thanks!

Yogesh22
Yogesh Kumar  12 months ago
Thanks a lot sir! Sure I will practice well :)
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thanks for sharing Yogesh. Good start! Keep practicing and look forward to seeing your further work!
SheidaJamei
Sheida Jamei  about 1 year ago
I prefer this photoblog to others!
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Happy you enjoyed it!
kujaja
K J  about 1 year ago
Great article Kimberly! its very nice to see some other kind of photography (as the usual saturated landscapes etc) into a highlight!
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thanks KJ! It's really thanks to Diana Tula, the great 500px blog editor—innovative and open-minded—who decided to highlight this in the blog.
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Giancarlo Bisone  about 1 year ago
Thanks Kimberly for this great blog. Without knowing I believe that I was taking photos in line with some of the concepts of contemplative photography. Now I can practice more according to the key elements of this approach.
Many thanks for sharing with all of us this great blog. All the best, Giancarlo
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Giancarlo, I always thought you had a natural propensity to this approach! Especially your vivid color shots. Look forward to seeing how this effects your upcoming photos! All the best to you. x
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Rory Tate  about 1 year ago
My main subjects have been nature/landscapes for many years. My interests these areas has waned and I've been looking for new subject matter.
Contemplative photography has always been of interest and when seen, it really excites me. As a result of your article I've found a new focus to direct my creative energies.
Thank you so much
Rory Tate
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
That's great to hear Rory! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do and look forward to seeing your new inspired work!
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Tom Collins  about 1 year ago
Thank you for taking the time to write this wonderful and inspiring article. My practice begins today.
Tom Collins
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
How wonderful! x
AdrianHopkins
Adrian Hopkins  about 1 year ago
I've been getting the 500px newsletters for a few weeks, but never ventured to read a post until I saw this one. Great post, Kimberly! I am new to 500px, but have shared a few of my own contemplative photography posts on Instagram.

Here are two of mine:
http://statigr.am/p/450890485880949796_3420610
http://statigr.am/p/432744717424889513_3420610

And by others using the #contemplativephotography hashtag: http://statigr.am/tag/contemplativephotography/

I look forward to practicing with those assignments!

KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Welcome to 500px Adrian; it is a really wonderful community and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Thanks for sharing your shots. Enjoy the assignments and please start posting on 500px. I look forward to seeing them x
lilya_N
Lilya Nevostrueva  about 1 year ago
This is an excellent article, I had no knowledge of this concept. Thank you :)
You have a very beautiful work, Kimberly !
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thank you Lilya! I hope you try it out : ) x
infrascapes
Mark Davis  about 1 year ago
I guess contemplative photography is more about what you leave out rather than what you include in the image? This is a challenge but still very interesting. Is this contemplative light - http://500px.com/photo/41530104 ?
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Could be as you definitely seem to have captured light, but technically also black and white photographs are not strictly contemplative as they are not how we naturally see the world... We don't try to make it more interesting or more dramatic then the original flash of perception. However, the key thing is your state of mind when you take the photograph. Did you read about the practice in a nutshell and then try? http://seeingfresh.com/about/the-practice-in-a-nutshell
infrascapes
Mark Davis  about 1 year ago
Interesting read Kimberly that made me reflect on my own photography. I do find photography very therapeutic (although I am not in a stressful place) and enjoy the process of creating images. I also love infrared imagery and this I feel is very contemplative as infrared light is invisible. While all images are not contemplative, I have uploaded a colour image at http://500px.com/photo/41527476. An infrared image that is colour contemplative is also at http://500px.com/photo/22428761 or http://500px.com/photo/41528636 .
infrascapes
Mark Davis  about 1 year ago
So it is more about seeing literally with your eyes rather than seeing with your mind to visualise what the image would look like. More about capturing a moment - a contemplative moment in time is some sense a refinement of the Kodak moment?
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Hi Mark, happy you found the article interesting. I love your first color image which for me is a great example of simplicity. The other two while lovely can't strictly be called contemplative photography as in contemplative photography is about recognising those flashes of perception, almost those moments of non-thought in a sense, in our everyday world and then trying to capture them as purely as possible and in a non-manipulated way. Since we don't actually see in infared, you are not actually capturing a moment of fresh perception that you have actually seen. The image might be great and give a contemplative feeling, but it would not actually be contemplative photography if that makes sense! Look forward to seeing more of yours! x
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DOF Factory  about 1 year ago
Love the shots and very good article. More please!
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
More shots or more articles? ; ) xxx
bettykhuri
Betty Habesch  about 1 year ago
Thank you so much Kimberly, you really captured my interest and I will be trying this method of contemplative photography for sure!
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
That's great Betty! Enjoy! And look forward to seeing what you come up with! x
pgphotography
Paul Grinzi  about 1 year ago
Thank you so much Kimberly. I have (briefly looked at 'contemplative' images, beyond this article's great examples) and note that people rarely feature (if present they are often an abstract component).

I reflected upon my own image making and felt that many of my photos reflect this contemplative style ... But I also have presented a number of images of people (which, within my experience, have provided me with similar contemplative/mindful reflection as my non-people images.

What are your thoughts regarding contemplative images including people?

Ps I also appreciate any thoughts on my own images from the readers of this article, but this is certainly not an expectation!

KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
P.S. I think great street photographers can capture people in this way.
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Dear Paul,

Good to hear from you! Contemplative images can definitely include people. The trick is that in contemplative photography, nothing is posed. You simply capture what you are struck by, a moment of perception, a moment in time, a decisive moment. Or those 'in between' moments where nothing or something is taking place.

So, I guess the challenge with trying to photograph people in this way is that they are moving targets and to be able to capture the moment that first struck you before it is gone is not easy. Also, if someone is aware that you are photographing them, there is always some element of posing or self-consciousness present, so ideally you would capture them without them being aware that you actually photographing them. Then, you also get into model permission, etc. But it is definitely possible and worth playing with! There are the examples of the great great ones like Henri Cartier-Bresson that are masters of this.

I have a few of poor poor attempts:
http://500px.com/KimberlyPoppe/sets/people

I look forward to seeing your better ones!

Best,
Kimberly

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julian john  about 1 year ago
Great work , Kimbery. What a wonderful selection.
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thank you Julian x
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Renee Vichos  about 1 year ago
Thanks for all your very informative info - I'll open my eyes (& mind) a lot more from now on.
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
You're welcome! Look forward to seeing what your fresh eyes and mind come up with!
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Aldo Canalini  about 1 year ago
My contemplative photo http://500px.com/photo/33538641 .
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Great shot Aldo! Interested to know what you think defines it as contemplative?
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Ian Ross  about 1 year ago
Hi Kimberly, I really enjoyed this article and in fact it has made me re-look at why I have taken some of the images I have in my collection. As a mediator myself, I think this is an exciting way to add a new dimension to my practice and my hobby. Thank you for sharing this,I look forward to viewing more of your images and I will begin to explore contemplative photography and see what it does to my own efforts. Cheers Ian
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Hi Ian, wonderful to hear. I look forward to seeing what your exploration brings!
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Sean Bancroft  about 1 year ago
Thanks for sharing!
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Welcome! x
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Deep Blue Sea  about 1 year ago
I purchased Contemplative Photography as a birthday gift to myself in 2011. This article is the nudge I need to finally really the book and put what I learn into practice.
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Look forward to seeing what emerges! x
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Kirill Koshelev  about 1 year ago
Nice article!
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Thanks!
TeamBnK
Team B&K  about 1 year ago
This article has inspired myself.
Thanks, Kimberly.
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Happy to hear it! x
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Renchi Arce  about 1 year ago
I'm a relatively new wedding and portrait photographer who's been searching for sometime for my kind of personal project, a way to express how I see the world, a means to grow not only as a photographer but also as a human being. I think I just found it! Thank you Kimberly for this article/introduction to contemplative photography that I'm eager to try and learn about soon. God bless you richly and deeply!
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Hi Renchi, I'm so happy to hear this! Hope it brings you enjoyment and nourishment and look forward to seeing your contemplative shots!
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Chris Williams  about 1 year ago
Ahah! This is the term for what I've been shooting the past 5 years. It wasn't quite "Fine Art" but it was still something similar. I always explained it as sharing the "awesome world that exists all around us, but may often go unnoticed."

Here's one of my favorite examples:
http://www.cwwphotos.com/Photography/Greatest-Hits/7052587_PMps8k#!i=1554557147&k=Jp8rcPS

KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Hi Chris, yes some of your shots definitely have a contemplative feel! I'd encourage you to explore the assignments on Seeing Fresh and look forward to seeing what you post on 500px as no photos here yet! Please don't be shy... x
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Fabrizio Arati  about 1 year ago
Thank you Kimberly, I love this way to receive images and not take a photo! Fabrizio
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Look forward to seeing more of your contemplative shots! x
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Tasso Dikaios  about 1 year ago
Kimberly, thank you so much for this wonderful article and for your kind reference. I look forward to enjoying more of your work as well.

Thanks

Tasso

KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Look forward to seeing more of yours! Happy you are uploading more...
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Pierre Marroy  about 1 year ago
Hey, I was doing this kind of photography without even knowing its name ! =D

http://500px.com/photo/40510038
http://500px.com/photo/40510042
http://500px.com/photo/40510028
http://500px.com/photo/40510030

Thanks !

KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Pierre, why not check out the Seeing Fresh website, read about the practice and see how it changes your natural propensity for this style! x
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Haggai Ben-Yehuda  about 1 year ago
Thanks a lot
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Welcome—really enjoy your photography!
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Sara Feld  about 1 year ago
Kimberly, Lovely blog on Contemplative Photography! You have seen Andy Karr and Michael Wood's book?
Taken a workshop? I love the Seeing Fresh website! I also delight in following you on 500px. Thanks for
Including me on you list here, an honor!
KimberlyPoppe
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Yes the book is wonderful. Haven't taken a workshop—never seem to be in the right place at the right time—just through the book and on-line. Really hope more people on 500px will start experimenting! x
InsDavid
Inês David  about 1 year ago
What a interesting post, Kimberly. I had no knowledge of this concept and it's really refreshing to discover a unique vision, like yours. I will give it a try for sure!
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Wonderful! I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
sanjeevanibutti
Sanjeev Nepali  about 1 year ago
thank you so much fr this an awesome article and very helpful
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Kimberly Poppe  about 1 year ago
Welcome! Will be great to see your new shots!

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