The Art of Seeing

The artist addresses a blank canvas and, brush stroke by brush stroke, builds up a complex orderly structure.  A photographer, on the other hand, faces a chaotic world which must be simplified before a finished image can appear.  Of course, both are faced with the challenge of seeing, whether it be the painting or the image.

No photographer sees the final image when he sets out on his quest. He may have a mental picture of what he wants to achieve.  Or he may simply be exploring the landscape, seeking that quiet whisper of inspiration.  In either case, he must discover the image amongst the chaos.  Developing the ability to render down the bewildering scene, simplifying step by step, to uncover its very essence – that is, to be able to see – takes patience and practice.

Here’s what some people have had to say about it:

  • It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” …. Henry David Thoreau
  • Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others” …. Jonathan Swift
  • Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution” …. Ansel Adams

Do have a favourite saying on the subject?

Here’s a longish quote from Photographing the Patterns of Nature by Gary Braasch which speaks directly to the issue:
“This book’s approach to outdoor photography empasizes understanding and seeing the grand designs of nature as well as using them to make better pictures.  My purpose is to help you see the world with a fresh vision through the selective perspective of your camera.  The patterns of nature are all around us, but the photographer must become sensitive to their presence….Such photographs [of nature’s patterns] reveal the hidden poetry of the world, a poetry that only stays hidden when we don’t take the time to look deeply enough.”

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