Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seeing is what happens between the photographs..

   Honestly, if I never picked up a camera again I would forever me thankful for the way photography has opened my eyes to the world around me.  In many ways, however, the camera can inhibit pure perception.  When you bring the viewfinder to your eye, you immediately "exclude" something.  I've made it a contemplative practice to spend time with those excluded areas of the landscape after I make a photograph.

Lines of Communication
   Seeing is what happens between the photographs.

    Seeing is both an eye and a heart thing for me...the camera an intermediary in the process and sometimes, often really, it doesn't "see" what I see.  Perhaps the light wasn't just right or, more likely, I chose the wrong aperture or some other technicality.   For whatever reasons, I rely on my field notes, sketches, and memory to translate the image visually into what I felt emotionally on location.

      Perhaps it was the lowering of the water level at the pond that exposed the lily pad stems and the approaching Autumn that colored them but I don't remember seeing them this shocking magenta before.  It really brought me to a stand still.  The contrast with the green pads was stunning.

   I had photographed the area and then put the camera aside and really looked at what was in front of me.  It was then I noticed the red stems.  The camera cannot see anything it isn't pointed at just like a brush cannot paint without the artist setting it in motion.  Camera and brush are static and impotent tools without the thoughtful spirit of the artist behind them.  Artistic vision is when we are able to string together a series of these "in-sights" and those happen first without the camera pressed to our eye.

Vision is the art of seeing what
 is invisible to others.
 - Jonathan Swift



Anonymous said...

Patricia, I completely agree with both of your observations. Photography has given me "an eye to see" which has absolutely nothing to do with equipment. I took a ten year hiatus from photography (which happened to correspond to the film to digital changeover,) I was afraid about what I might have forgotten. What I learned when I came back is that I had not lost my eye. And I learned to do contemplative photography by spending vast amounts of time with the same subject. Thank you for the post! Stacey

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you Stacey. I too took a hiatus...from 1980 - 2005! What a different world it was, technically speaking, when I finally returned! Spending time with one subject, like I'm doing with the pond this year, is the best way to hone your contemplative eye.

kimmanleyort said...

I love your comment that seeing is what happens between the photographs. So true. Many of my favourite photographs are those that caught me by surprise, like your lily stems.

Patricia Turner said...

I think we invite the element of surprise into our camera work when we actually put the camera down and just look.