Shannon Kringen
Creative Taoist Photographer


The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. Volume 28 Number 2, 1996 Characteristics of the Taoist Sage in the Chuang-tzu and the creative photographerby Philippe L Gross & S.I. Shapiro page 175

I am a photographer and I see it as a spiritual practice that keeps my mind fresh, alive and in the present moment. (if I applied this to my whole life I would be much more fully alive and free to learn,grow,heal, self actualize)

The article talks about using photography in the classroom as facilitating transpersonal vision. The characteristics of the Sage are sometimes echoed by statements in the photography literature of creative photography. Some of the sage characteristics shared with photography are: freedom from the sense of self, receptivity, spontaneity, acceptance, non-attachment, resourcefulness, free and easy wandering and “wu-wei” (an important concept in Taoism that literally means non-action or non-doing) for example: “As trees grow, they simply grow without trying to grow “

In creative photography (which I would call “improvisationally wandering with your camera and shooting in the present moment and responding spontaneously to what you see, shape,color,light,texture) can be seen as an communion between the self and the environment with no sense of separation.

Photographer Cartier-Bresson said “I am not responsible for my photographs. Photography is not documentation but intuition, a poetic experience. It’s drowning yourself, dissolving yourself, then sniff, sniff, sniff—being sensitive to coincidence. You can’t go looking for it; you can’t want it or you won’t get it. First, you must lose yourself, then it happens.”

A Taoist photographer responds in the present moment and lets things happen. The photograph almost takes itself. I fully agree with this most of my best photographs have been done this way. Spontaneously free and open to what is around me. Having never seen that kind of light or shape before. My heart and mind are in love with what I see and I shoot when it feels right. This cannot be planned.

I have had people tell me after seeing my photographs of shapes in water and mud puddles and chrome they now notice things out walking they never saw before. Art can be transformational for people. Flowing with life and not rebelling against it. Accepting what is “pretty and ugly both equally” being “equanimous”. All these spiritual principles are used in creative photography. I will add that this Taoist principles can also be seen in improvisational theatre and drawing and painting, singing, dancing. Especially jazz!

In summary the article states that creative photographers are sometimes conscious of these Taoist principles while they shoot photos and sometimes not. Either way it seems that a natural flow of life directs the action in this kind of photography that mirrors very closely that of Taoist wisdom.