The entire title of the book by Frederick Franck is The Zen of Seeing, Seeing/Drawing as Meditation. Franck suggests that seeing/drawing takes one close to Zen, if you do it correctly. By correctly, he means that one should draw without judgement, without ego, and without labels for what is being drawn. It is not the result that matters as much as how drawing aids in seeing. But at the same time, seeing aids in drawing.
Interestingly, Franck informs that he gave up photography (painting as well), because it was too much about looking and not about seeing. He had a complaint about the speed of the process. I would suggest that he was not doing photography in a way that he would call Zen. Ironically, the very process he describes as seeing/drawing could become seeing/photographing. Maybe he allowed the camera to get in his way.
From a process standpoint, I have often thought photography is more like drawing than it is like painting. In both processes (drawing and photography), it is possible to create while not taking your eyes off the subject. Franck says that drawing is a means to an end, the result should be forgotten. I have often felt that way after photographing in the field where I became so absorbed in the process and the way that it heightened my perception, that the result became less important. When I worked with film, it was very easy to get wrapped up in the process as there was no way to see the results. With a digital sensor and LCD screen to review my work, I am occasionally pulled away and become more results oriented.
Photography though is done on a different time scale than drawing and it is that attribute that I often enjoy. That split second rendering to stop time in a way that the eye would not appreciate otherwise. Is there a Zen to photography? I think there is and I think I have experienced it. Usually once I become consciouse of it though, it’s gone.
I don’t know if my state of mind would have been called Zen when I made this image of three cardinals in a snow storm, but I remember an increased sensation of visual awareness with regards to how each bird was posturing, and their geometric relationship to each other. I do not remember the squeezing of the shutter release, or any of the technical decisions that I must have been making almost subconsciously. I will admit that any Zen was disrupted by a concern about what all that snow was doing to my lens.
This image is now available for $79. as a print approx. 11×14″ matted to 16×20″. I doubt that’s very Zen either.