The Art of Seeing

4 commentsPhotography

It used to be that seeing was an art. And capturing an image required thought — not the intellectual kind as academics and critics would have us believe, but the intuitive kind. It required an innate ability to feel subtelties of light, form and emotion and in an instant just know the decisive moment. It required us to see.

Five Minutes into Dusk | A view from my balcony.

Think about the photo before and after, never during. The secret is to take your time. You mustn’t go too fast. The subject must forget about you. Then, however, you must be very quick. — Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Today much has been said about how digital photography literally puts a camera, in one form or another, in everyone’s hands. Much has been made about how all these cameras allow one, under the right conditions, to take a photo of such technical perfection to be suitable for any medium: the web, print, or even a gallery wall. And as usual, the self-proclaimed bleeding hearts and “artists” in museums and galleries the world over bitch and moan about the death of Photography as a serious artform.

Who cares? I certainly don’t. It’s all well and good. But beween those two poles (twitpic drivel by hobbyists at one end and overcurated fartart by pros at the other) where does that leave photography itself? More precisely, where does that leave the act (the art) of seeing?

I am not a purist. Nor am I one to argue the beauty of film grain over digital noise or even the virtues of “untouched” photos over those Photoshopped to look more like aribrushed graphics than anything that could ever come out of the dumb lightproof box we call a camera. I’d prefer to leave all those debates to tech-bloggers and hair-splitters. Film has its value as digital has its conveniences. Out-of-camera shots have their place just as digital negative files (like DNG and RAW) not only prefer but require post-processing, just as traditional negative film requires development in the darkroom.

No, much more than that, this is simply a call to see.

Every one of us who feels compelled to snap away at the shutter should first take a long hard look inside: at the need that first compelled one to look at the world with one’s own naked eyes, capture and share that nakedness. Today anyone can take a shot. Almost anyone can take a well-exposed, well-composed photo. And heck, with some photoshop tinkering (or simply draining it of all color into artsy black and white) most can even take a photograph good enough to compel a friend or two or fifty to “Like” it on Facebook.

But none of those shots, photos or photographs would matter without intuition. The camera looks outwards but what it reveals is hidden deep inside. We must see.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

SOOLY January 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

❝Un jour, alors qu’un etudiant lui demandait quel appareil il avait utilise pour reussir une photographie particuliere, il repondit, furieux, que sa question equivalait a demander a un auteur quelle machine a ecrire il avait utilise❞ Walker Evans


Meedo January 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

… or a cook what pots he used.


salwa March 24, 2011 at 11:19 am

i loved every single word of every blog!!!!!i have been going through ur page over and over each day…..was amazing!!!!what you write,the way you criticize,the way you see things i really admire it:)


Michal November 20, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Hey! I’m in these and chubby! But, hot damn my wife looks good. Love you Brooke and how you made me look alomst as good as Sam.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: