looking out of The National Gallery
onto Trafalgar Square
Nelson's Column anchors the picture
The London Eye centers it
For most of my life, I was the person who always forgot to bring her camera on holiday. My family used to joke that by the time we got a roll of film developed, we had no idea what we would find on it: a bit of Halloween, somebody's birthday, a random school event, everyone dressed up for Easter. We took a decidedly casual approach to our recorded memories . . . and now I'm starting to wonder about all of the things that we've forgotten.
I've almost always owned a camera -- but something just basic; something that I didn't really know how to use.
One of the many unexpected things that blogging has brought into my life is a fledgling interest in photography. Although I've always had a reverence for words, I've just begun to appreciate the possibilities of images.
It has also occurred to me that my notoriously unobservant eye needn't remain that way. We can actually teach ourselves to see -- not just with an eye for more detail or better recall, but with an expanded sense of possibility for what seeing actually means.
At its best, blogging is a reciprocal dialogue. Lately, I have been noticing a fascinating confluence of ideas.
A flowing together of two or more streams.
The point of juncture of such streams.
The combined stream formed by this juncture.
As an example, on Friday I visited The National Gallery in London. As I was exiting the museum, I noticed how a glass hallway made an interesting vertical frame for some of the most iconic images of London. I truly don't think I would have noticed this view if I hadn't had a camera in my hand. Even just a few months of trying to record -- not just what I see, but something much better -- has started to expand the lens I look through.
I was thinking about this idea when I read Reya Mellicker's essay: Photography Changes How and What We See. I strongly urge you to read Reya's essay in its entirety-- and also her thoughtful and wonderfully inspiring blog The Gold Puppy -- but in the meantime, I'm going to share some of the thoughts that jumped out at me.
The more we look at photographs, the easier it is to perceive what we’re accustomed to ignoring. Not long ago, Lucy (a brilliant photographer) happened to mention how photographs tend to show up all of the power lines/signage/trash bins that we are accustomed to just visually tuning out. It was one of those random confluences, as I had just had that realization myself. My attempts to take pictures of the countryside have made me so aware of the signs of human encroachment: power lines everywhere! (More confluence: As I went back to find the link, I discovered that Lucy had mentioned this again.)
In photographs, we are given a glimpse of the world through the eye, and in many ways through the heart, of other beholders. Suddenly we are able to see things and people, situations and landscapes, perspectives, angles, colors and shapes that we might never have noticed on our own. This idea is all mixed up in blogging for me. The personal aspect of blogging -- the fact of being able to participate (through commenting) in what you see and how it makes you feel -- has transformed the idea of "the world" for me, both shrinking and expanding it. I've also realized that some people will find what I see (whether it is Trafalgar Square or the view outside of my window) exotic and interesting . . . just because it is different from what they see. Somehow, this enables me to appreciate my life in a different way: To think of it as something that I am crafting everyday.
Photography creates a bridge between what we expect to see, and all there really is to see. How profound is that? And it makes sense on so many levels. Yesterday I was reading an interview of David Lynch and he mentioned -- with much excitement and awe -- that his highly pixilated camera could capture "something like 4,000 pieces of information per photograph." I don't even have 20/20 vision or artistic vision . . . much less the pixilated kind. Strangely enough, this mechanical device actually reveals so many mysteries.
The truth is that visually, we scan for what we know, for what we expect and for what we value, ignoring all the rest, which is a pretty narrow view when you think about it. But put a lens between the human eye and the world, capture an image, and many possibilities open up. Photography presents us with a way to see the unseen, to notice what isn’t usually obvious, and in so doing, opens the mind’s eye in many ways.