Ways of Seeing

In college, one of our assigned books was Ways of Seeing by John Berger, based on a series of 30-minute films in the early 1970’s.  While I recommend the book, this isn’t a review of it.  Rather, the title is evokative of a state of mind.  It’s on my shelf in my line-of-site from where I do a lot of my writing, so it’s something that’s in the background of my consciousness and the words have become a phrase in the substrata of my mind.

The way we see is unique.  Each of us could look at the same scene and come away with different impressions and imagery of what we saw.  This is valuable and necessary.  We don’t have to believe it for it to be true; we just have to see.

Do you have a camera, even just the simple one in your phone?  (Granted, some of the smart phones out there have cameras that are anything but simple.)  Have you experimented with just shooting a picture series of what you look at every day?  Try this:

Tomorrow, as you go about your daily round, take pictures.  If you drive, pause and snap what you see out your windshield before you start driving.  If you walk or take transit, snap pictures of stuff you see every time you go on your route.  The more mundane, the better.  Like a detective, we are after data and facts, not art.

Do you dislike pictures of yourself?  Experiment by taking one picture of yourself every day this week.  Do not judge; just take the picture and record the date.  “This is what I looked like on Tuesday.”  Play with different expressions and poses.  If you find yourself with one particular expression a lot, make that expression (for example, the one you have on your face when the phone rings) and take a picture of yourself.  What do you look like with that expression?

If you don’t have a camera, there are several good, inexpensive models you can find here, here, and here.  See if you have a friend who would loan you theirs.  If you have an affiliation with a school, they sometimes have them available for loan.

The point here is to become acquainted with how we see the world.  A fun twist on this exercise is to do it at the same time as your kids and then compare notes.  See what you might learn about each other.  Be prepared – leave your expectations at the door.  When you open your eyes and look, you’ll never know what you might see.

Have fun!

13 Replies to “Ways of Seeing”

  1. Neat! I have a fairly new camera which gets little use. Since I don't get out much, I could still take simple photographs of the views outside my windows. The squirrels these last few weeks have been a grand source of entertainment and this would be a fine way to remember that without worrying about great quality. Just enjoying the moment and capturing what I see are good goals.

  2. As much as I love writing there are times when I can only indulge my creative side in photography. It's less complicated, perhaps that's because poetry can be such an emotional digging around inside oneself.

    Anyways I oscillate between technical shots and spur of the moment art. And I'm always amazed at how many photos can come from one view; time and time again. Different light, composition, people… a few minutes can make a big difference to the same scene.

    Hopefully I will get to see some photos encouraged by your post, Noony.

    And, I am well thank you. 🙂

  3. Hi, Darla! I'm glad that you've got some ideas to use your new camera. You know what I did a lot when I was younger? Still lifes, around my house. I loved taking pictures of my favorite areas; my bedside table with CD player is still a favorite from that period. Inside is as useful as outside, for pictures.

  4. I agree, Byz, it's incredible how many different shots we can get from one particular place. I've seen some photographers do the same place in different seasons/light and then use that as a series. It's fun to see.

    I hope we do get to see more of your photographs; I love seeing them!


  5. Okay, I'm hooked. I took some photos around mid-day, will continue to do so at different times of day, same shots. I'm actually quite excited about this, it's nice to interact with y'all again. 😉

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