My wife, Susan Dimock, often says that photography opened her eyes up to things she previously did not see. This it true for many of us. Our use of a camera brings about a focus that helps to clarify the world and form it into potential images, We start to take into our view subjects that otherwise would be seen only as background to our experience. We start learning to see the world as photographers.
The challenge, over time, becomes one of learning to see anew. The framework that we have been placing on our world starts to become static. We start to see the world in terms of compositional tools that we often use (the rule of thirds etc.) or subjects we frequently photograph. After years of walking the fields we start to see the world in the same way, over and over and over.
In order to break out of habitual sight and start seeing things from new perspectives (and that is all that it is is visual habit) we are often given little tricks to use. Probably the most commonly suggested is to use a single lens. The concept here is to force yourself to create images in a new way by limiting the options you have. This will work to some extent. However, I have found that what it actually does is sharpen our ability to overcome obstacles. We still snap our attention toward the same view, the same subject as previously. What changes is how we work with that subject.
For example, I often am out with only my 500mm lens. When I am chasing birds or other wildlife and that is the “most appropriate” tool for the job. When I look out onto a scene I would normally shoot with my 17-40, I see it in the same way but no longer have the simple ability to make the image. I have a challenge. I can view the world anew and come up with an image that world be out of my norm. That would be the best outcome. A more realistic outcome is that I see the view I would normally see and work out a way of creating it through stitching and stacking. The outcome will be a bit different than it would had I been carrying all my lenses but the fundamental interpretation of the scene, of the world remains the same.
The only way of learning to see something from a view other than how I normally would see it is through the introduction of new information.
Over the 50 years I have been creating photographs I have only found two ways to get new information and actually change how we see. One is to simply work with a subject so much and for such a long time that new worlds appear from the repetition. This type of change is, generally, a slow developmental process but is highly satisfying.
The second method is to shoot with other people. Each of us will see the world in slightly different ways (despite the apparent uniformity we see on the internet). Exposure to these alternate realities can open up new worlds and show us new alternative realities for us to see through.
All the above is a rather long introduction to a few images. 🙂
A few days ago, Susan and I had the pleasure of wandering about creating images with our granddaughter, Sumera O. From very early on, she has shown an interest and aptitude for photography which we are more than happy to encourage and always look forward to opportunities to shoot with her.
All three of us walked the same paths and saw the same objective reality. Our creations are totally our own. I can look upon what we got and see where I was looking and what constrained my view. I can now see how I might have looked differently.
Below are three images from each of us.
The three images above were all taken by our Sumera O.
She has told us a story showing where we are, the human view and the birds view. Her subject were all things I had noticed and walked right by. She used a square format imposing a structure I had not thought of. All new opportunities that I can learn from.
The three preceding images were all by Susan Dimock.
These images are highly abstract and require the viewer to engage and look closely to determine what they see. They express a balance between chaos and structure, sharp and unsharp. They tell something of what is there but leave the viewer to extrapolate and create the world.
The three image above are mine. When viewed in relation to the images by Susan and Sumera, my images are more focused on a specific subject within the environment and show the relation to that environment.
Susan and I spend a lot of time shooting together and viewing each others images. We learn from each other constantly. Spending a day with Sumera O, however, opened up new worlds and gave new vision. This is true each time we go out with another or view another photographers (or other artists) work. One of the greatest values of doing workshops or joining camera clubs is this exposure to new views, new perspectives, alternate worlds. This is how we expand our world, how we learn to see.
In India, we refer to grandchildren as the interest you earn of your investment. This thought came to my mind when I read this.
How so true is that?
When I saw the three images by Sumi, I didn’t know she took all of those and I was wondering which of those would have been yours or Susan’s till I read it.
What a different perspective kids have! Tons of love!
I love the idea of “interest earned.”
I think, somewhere along the line, we are often told to grow up and in that process we lose some of our “childish” curiosity. Re-learning to be child can help our images.
Thank you for such a stimulating comment.
Thank you Steve for sharing those thoughts with us. So right on. I know that I can stand beside someone looking at the same scene and we come away with very different images – a wonderful aspect of photography.
Thank you Deigh. It is sometimes quite amazing the difference in perception. It’s one of the best ways to learn, in my opinion. 🙂