Effortless Beauty


Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind and Heart by Julie DuBose




Book Reviews

First of all, what an accomplishment.

The writing is clear and descriptive and the images simply beautiful. For me, it described in a way I haven't seen before the experience of fresh perceptions.

Kim Manley Ort

Effortless Beauty: A book review by Barbara Bash

Preparing to write this review, I sit down, then pause, put aside my pen, and gaze out the window, taking in the soft moist greens and tawny golds of the summer meadow. This moment of stepping back and looking freshly at my world is a direct result of having read this book! Effortless Beauty is all about pausing, seeing in a fresh way, and appreciating the world anew. It offers the practice of Contemplative Photography as a creative and dharmic path. The benefits of reading this book — taking it in slowly — will penetrate and open your life.
Julie DuBose is a longtime practitioner of this path. Having trained with Michael Wood, she founded the Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography in Boulder and teaches workshops widely. She has now given us a book that is a strong addition to the writings on Dharma Art.
This is a beautifully designed book with an elegant rhythm moving between text and image that allows the reader to take in the words and then experience their meaning through the photographs. The typography is simple and open, the images exquisitely clear and surprising. I loved the close ups of clothing and hands (so intimate), the soft drape of a shower curtain resting on the bathtub edge, a stacking of forks in a drawer (so ordinary — so close). I felt nourished and settled down looking through the pages. As I read more closely, absorbing the images that followed each chapter, the deeper teachings began to emerge.

DuBose has a natural writing voice, personal and fresh. For her the taking of photographs is about being open to what she encounters, not expecting anything beforehand. It is a magical process because what happens comes out of nowhere. (I loved that.) Taking a photograph becomes the practice of being present to our life through cultivating a mind of simplicity.

She describes going out with her camera with the attitude of "I have all the time I need." There is no grasping, nothing to capture, no "hungry hunter looking for a trophy." Instead she holds out "an antenna of stillness", pausing, tuning in, becoming part of the fabric of the moment. This openness also includes vast uncertainty. There is no measuring of position, no getting of bearings. The artist must be willing to be "lost with no hope of being found." This is an uncomfortable place. It is also where the world opens. DuBose shows us again and again the awake and simple beauty available when we approach the world without an agenda. Letting go is ground. Being open is path. Receiving is fruition.

As an artist who works in other mediums I found her description of the creative process to be deeply familiar and restorative. For a photographer this book offers a unique voice and fresh eye. It also speaks beautifully to anyone as a treatise on how to live!

Towards the end she speaks about the editing process. Since a number of the images had unusual cropping I was intrigued by how this further viewing was held with a contemplative outlook. The writing here reminded me of the experience of touching up a calligraphy stroke. If it is done with the same fresh direct mind it extends and supports the aliveness of the mark. If it becomes an act of "improving" you've lost the spark, the freshness is gone. (With photography it's time to hit the delete button.) DuBose holds beautifully to the true line here, what she calls the three confidences: clarity, genuineness and decisiveness. If these are present in the editing "our images will be full expressions of our original perception."

Effortless Beauty is a quietly deep offering to the world, an elegant guide for seeing the ordinary beauty all around us. It is through this seeing that we awaken.

Barbara Bash is a calligrapher, illustrator, author and performance artist. She has written and illustrated many books on natural history for adults and children. She also teaches workshops in illustrated journaling, expressive brush calligraphy, and communication practices.

Not just for photographers, but for those who want to be present

I keep coming back to this book again and again, sometimes to remind myself to be present, sometimes to settle into the beauty the world so generously offers us. Effortless Beauty is both generous and compelling, inviting us to encounter the world just as it is, with no need to change it, just to be fully present without any interference.

Julie uses her photographs of the world's offerings - its beauty, patterns, rhythms--to invite us into the experience of being truly present. It's astonishing how much we miss in our headlong, blinded rush to get somewhere or complete our task list. We don't need to be photographers to just stop and notice what's here, right now, but carrying a camera can certainly help. As an amateur photographer myself, I always feel that my camera connects me intimately to what's going on, that it brings me into the picture rather than just recording it as an outsider. Photographing things as they appear in their effortless beauty is a profound act of respect; a statement that "I see you. I am here."

I've given this book to several friends and recommended it to others. It's a wonderful, gentle guide to see, to feel, to stop and to notice--all skills we are sorely lacking in our frenzied, turbulent world. The world is still there, just waiting for us to be present long enough to reveal its beauty and unending sense of order. And when we connect with that, the experience is always one of peace and comfort. I am very grateful to Julie for this beautiful book and her skilled guidance.

Margaret Wheatley
Author of Leadership and the New Science
Sundance, Utah.

Your Relationship with the Visual World Can Be Changed Forever

"Effortless Beauty" is a unique book. It is not so much a book on photography, but more a book on perception. Not perception as a technique, formula or template, but as the pure thing itself without thoughts, labels, or preconceived notions. This is a mature and experienced discussion as to what it is to be directly connected to our visual world without filters or agendas. And oh yes, photographs made of our perceptions can be wonderfully beautiful and moving. These photographs however are not the entire purpose of this practice of perception. They just happen to be the "record" of the connected experience the photographer had with the scene that was experienced.

I have been a practitioner of this "Miksang Contemplative Photography" practice for approximately 10 years and have found this to be the best discussion of what it "feels like" to perceive directly, how to access it, why we would care, and how this will revolutionize our love and practice of photography in the process. The author has packed an amazing amount of hard earned wisdom into this book that is really not available in any other location to this degree. This book is appropriate for beginners as well as experienced photographers. Each will get something quite different out of the book, but they are sure to be influenced in a positive way regardless of their location along the path of relationship with the visual world.

I particularly found the section on dealing with boredom to be profoundly useful for the experienced photographer. How does one deal with this and still stay connected to the visual world and experience it as fresh and vibrant over time? Many pearls of wisdom here.

This practice, in my opinion, is really mindfulness meditation with visual perceptions as the object of attention rather than watching one's breath. It gives one access to thriving in our visual world with a great deal of connection and wonderment. The camera is simply a tool to reinforce this new way of living in the world, and indeed is it a wonderfully fulfilling way to make photographic images. If you are looking for a template or technique on how to make certain types of images, you will be disappointed. If you are interested in establishing a whole new relationship with the visual world, and therefore with your photographic image making, then this practice may be revolutionary for you - it was for me.

Scott B. Jones
Portland, Oregon

This is a most remarkable book. First the photography is stunning and every image invites the viewer to gently slip into a meditation, where she "becomes the image". The text of the book is also remarkable. It does what none of the great phenomenological philosophers of the western tradition have been able to do: write in plain English, in the most simple every-day words, about the structures of consciousness as we gradually develop mindfulness and deeper awareness of ourselves in the world. It describes with much subtlety and delicate nuances the various stages of consciousness, as we shed all the 'baggage" we carry and gradually slip into a new realm of consciousness. Julie Dubose has succeeded in expressing things that, by and large, cannot be said in words but only shown, pointed to, or experienced. I wish Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau Ponty had learnt to write from her! There is no excuse for their pompous, obscure and pretentious language, even though they have very deep and admirable things to say! This book is a must for photographers interested in minimalism and contemplative photography.

Guillaume Bissonnette

The first things you notice as you look through this book are the gorgeous photographs. It's clear immediately that the author/photographer has an amazing eye and both artistic mastery and technical proficiency. The photographs alone make this a book that has a special place in my photography library. But this is more than just another book about how to take better pictures, about lenses, depth of field, shooting low light, etc. It's the best book I have ever read about how to see, really see our world with fresh eyes, a clear mind and an open heart. Reading it and spending time with the images has transformed how I see, improved my images, and most importantly has opened me up in ways only years of spiritual practice have done. In fact, reading the short chapters and spending time with the photographs is like going off on a meditation retreat with a great teacher. Please enjoy this wonderful book.

Philip Zeigler

Your book is beautiful, not just the photographs, which I knew would be fabulous, but the text as well. I think it’s a great dharma book as much as it’s a great photography book. I’m savoring it slowly, a chapter at a time, and the beauty of the photos and text in combination has brought tears to my eyes more than once. Great work!

Billy Jones
     Fort Collins, Colorado

"Effortless Beauty"  is a perfect companion for both meditators and non-meditators alike. It brings one from restlessness to stillness. It creates space where there only seems to be activity. "Effortless Beauty" made every cell in my being vibrate and my heart sing, "YES!" An absolutely brilliant book & a must read!

Stacey Dee
     ParaYoga Teacher

"The Buddha said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Julie DuBose and Michael Wood came into my life when I was ready to receive their wisdom. I am still and will always be their student, so it was with great excitement and reverence for her gentle wisdom that I read Julie’s book, Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind and Heart. More…

On the surface it seems this is a book about photography. Julie takes photos of the stuff we look at everyday — the dishes in the kitchen sink, the morning sun on rumpled bed linens, flower petals on the sidewalk, rain on the windshield. The photographs are arresting, there is an authenticity, gentleness, playfulness, a lyrical and poignant quality in the things and moments she photographs.

Julie teaches us how to take photographs that are devoid of the usual conventions, of cleverness and artifice. She teaches us how to free our minds, and let go of habitual patterns of labeling and sorting everything we experience. The photographs resonate ‑ we see the beautiful expression of an unfiltered mind experiencing the feast that is our world.

However, what she is really teaching is beyond a photograph or a product. The camera becomes a tool for seeing directly, removing the cobwebs of the mind and our tired conceptual overlays. In this book, Julie teaches us how to really see, how to be still, open and express the beauty of our everyday lives. That sense of wonder, gratitude, and being present transcends into the rest of our lives, whether we are carrying a camera or not.

The experience can be still or deeply moving — we feel like magic is touching us. We have opened our eyes and our hearts, we are present and are actually really seeing, as if for the first time. If it sounds like meditation, it’s because it is … it is meditation with a camera. We are making room in our minds for a perception to occur, and when it does, we feel expansiveness, love, confidence, and gratitude.

Whether you are a seasoned photographer who has grown tired of the conventions and formulas of the medium; or you have a desire to more fully and honestly express yourself; or maybe you are tired of the way you’re seeing your world, this book offers wisdom and inspiration.  Julie teaches us how to stop seeking and manipulating, and just let the world reveal itself in all its awesomeness."

Fiona Wiseman
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

"Effortless Beauty will wake you up to your everyday world. Upon reading you will begin to notice things that you have driven by, and walked beside a thousand times and have never really observed before. More…

The process explained in this book will cause you to be surprised and delighted because of a big new sense of discovery as to what is around you. Curiosity and a sense of expectation will arise in you as you become available to your surroundings. This is a similar feeling to the anticipation a child feels on a Christmas morning. Julie DuBose is a long time Miksang practitioner and an excellent guide along this path of discovery and perception."

Maxine Evans
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada

"It takes little effort to connect with and appreciate Julie’s beautiful photographs, as well as her profound, yet simple wisdom. Indeed, she speaks from the heart, simultaneously touching ours. More…

This book teaches us not only how to take stunning photographs, but also how to explore and savor our seemingly ordinary lives. Julie clearly has so much passion for the visual world she encounters day by day, whether that appears while walking around her house, in the office, out for a meal, or with friends and family. Undoubtedly, Julie practices what she preaches. 
Julie deeply explains the practice of contemplative photography with great clarity by merely talking about her direct experience, instead of using artsy, conceptual jargon. Moreover, her kind and gentle words and examples are as inviting and powerful as the photographs themselves, leaving the reader wanting more.  
Thankfully, she shows us how we all have the natural ability to genuinely know, enjoy, and express our everyday world. As a result, the reader is left empowered and eager to meet any situation in a fresh way. I look forward to repeatedly reading Julie’s book and encourage others to do the same."

Brian Sano
Washington, D.C.

“Where do I go from here?” Whether relatively new to photography or a seasoned photographer, if that's the question you're asking now, consider buying Effortless Beauty before investing in another piece of equipment, software, or destination workshop. More…

Julie details a different approach for developing our ability to see and convey our experience of this world through the medium of photography. Beginning with the intention to see, continuing through the moment we're moved to capture an image   and then on to editing, she describes the process with an emphasis on our state of mind throughout. Effortless Beauty offers practical exercises, guidance for increasing confidence in our unique perceptions, and ways to navigate through stumbling blocks we might encounter.

In one chapter Julie writes, “In order to be fully satisfied by our visual feast, we have to thoroughly process and savor it…it's not possible to eat the whole thing in one bite.” Rich in content and images which surprise and delight, the same is true for this book: it deserves time to digest.

“Take your photography [up] to the next level” is a common phrase in this industry. (Try a Google search!) Effortless Beauty instead takes us deeper into an exploration of our world—on a journey that is both inner and outer—not as observers, but as participants."


"In her straight forward and un-complicated style, Julie DuBose takes us through the anatomy of photography as a way of expressing our direct visual experience and how we can feel it’s pulse in our every day life.

You wont find Effortless Beauty to be a book that is filled with dogma and technical talk. What you will find is a book that is filled with practical wisdom that has been accumulated over many years of passionately practicing and teaching Miksang. This wisdom has been distilled to its very essence and offered to you in the most generous way.More…

This book offers something quite unconventional. It lays out a path that invites us to get out of our own way, to step out of the realm of what we think and into the realm of our experience. It teaches us how we can express our visual experience in the form of a photograph, directly without feeling the need to improve it or change it in any way. The vivid and unmistakably direct photographs that illustrate each chapter of this book show us exactly what that looks like.

As a student of Miksang for many years, and now as a teacher, I can say with confidence that nothing has been left on the table. Effortless Beauty begins at the beginning and takes us through the entire practice with detail.

Photography has the ability to become so easily burdened by technical concerns, ambition and concepts. Effortless Beauty offers a sincere antidote for that. As Julie says “This is the dividing line where we choose to make art from our direct experience, or art from our conceptual ideas.” This book is your personal invitation to let go of those burdens and embrace the richness of your everyday world and photograph it as a direct expression of your eye, mind and heart."

Genice Valentino Wickum

I love this book.

It has provided me so many hours of deep pleasure looking at the singularly captivating images and reading the inspirational essays.

It offers an opportunity to slow down and to reflect on how we move thru this beautiful world of ours. A world we often don't see or feel.

This book will wake you up-I dare say this book will make you happy - get it and treasure it, study it, enjoy it!

Richard Allon

As a student of the approach to seeing and photography presented here, I found the overall perspective of the book very refreshing. In addition to presenting basic concepts the author describes them from her first person perspective as a practioner and so her accounts are personal and grounded in experience - in a sense the concepts "take life" with enhanced clarity via her writing. In this way the book serves as a complimentary bookend to the book "The Practice of Contemplative Photography" (Karr & Wood). It is not a repeat of material, except the essentials - which is good. The discussions on barriers to seeing with a "good eye" (e.g., info/tech distraction) and the transformative effects of the practice in daily life were very helpful and are a good addition to the literature on contemplative photography. Highly recommended.

Ronald Barnett

I'm a photographer and I have always been fascinated with and curious about how artists "see." I recently read Effortless Beauty by Julie DuBose and highly recommend it as part of this discussion.

As I read it (and this is a simplified version--you will have to read the book for the greater details), DuBose presents the idea that to see better we need to clear our thoughts, make our mind still, and make ourselves available--without any preconceived ideas rolling around in our brains--to whatever perceptions show themselves to us. And if we can stay with those perceptions in a clear unencumbered way through to the actual taking of the photo, we can take some humdingers (as testified to by a number of her wonderful images in the book).

This approach runs counter to many of the things I've learned about photography: shooting projects featuring specific subject matter, traveling to distant venues to find unique shooting material, constantly evaluating what I can add or subtract from my framing and composition to make a more interesting image, or deciding what subject matter would be appealing. But I've given DuBose's "direct seeing" a try and my experience is that she's on to something.

So give this book a read. No matter how far you go with it, or how much you apply it to your photography, I'm willing to bet it will have an impact that will stay with you.

Warren Simmons


© Julie DuBose 2017. All Rights Reserved