Learning to see without imagination from a zen perspective is about letting go the world of concepts that is a product of our unlimited capacity for conceptual thinking. It is the world we live in most of the time.
When we work with our conceptually imaginative mind we are not intimately involved or connected with what we actually see and miss what is going on in the present. It is like clouding the sky, preventing the sun from shining through. What is covered up is our natural ability to be creative. Each moment is a new creation, giving rise to new perceptions. They are very short, lasting a fraction of a second and we can stay inside of them only as long as they last.
By capturing these moments of clarity with our camera we are already looking at them from the outside. This process of going in and out of creative bursts is very different from using imagination that is the product of conceptual thinking. In the former we are not in charge but allow creativity to shine through. In the latter it is the ‘I’ or ‘me’ or ‘self’ or what is commonly referred to as ‘ego’ that is in control and directs the process and decides the content.
A prerequisite for living these precious moments of no-self is to have a quiet mind. However, it would be misleading to imply that a quiet mind is easy to attain, a mind that is not buzzing with thoughts, ideas, concepts and opinions. The process of letting them go is slow and requires a great deal of work on oneself.
Practicing photography in this way brings clarity to our pictures. When open to these moments we are vulnerable to creativity and bring art into every day life. It is not fine arts but it is based on authentic seeing that reaches beyond our eyeballs, beyond what everybody else sees.