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« civilized ku # 2133 ~ his knowledge of photography is about that of your average chipmunk | Main | civilized ku # 2129-31 ~ the unbearable LIGHT-ness of Spring »
Wednesday
Mar212012

civilized ku # 2132 ~ it's a contest

Rain / FOR LEASE ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack Park • click to embiggenNone other than John Szarkowski stated:

Photography is a contest between a photographer and the presumptions of approximate and habitual seeing. The contest can be held anywhere ...

The phrase, "the presumptions of approximate and habitual seeing" is, IMO, an exquisite descriptor of the manner in which most of the people on the planet drift through daily life, seeing wise. I am also of the opinion that the phrase could be modified to read, "living is a contest between a person and the presumptions of approximate and habitual thinking ...", in order to describe the "lazy" manner in which most people think (in this case, I use the word "think" in its most loose meaning), but that's a different story.

Fortunately for accomplished picture makers - that is to say, for those picture makers who have broken through the bonds of the presumptions of approximate and habitual seeing - most on the planet are "seeing" impaired, thereby creating a rather large pool of potential viewers of fine pictures. Pictures which illustrate those things which the "seeing" impaired look at but never notice.

Unfortunately, that same potential viewer pool is peopled with a large number of those who are also swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool. Their desire/ability to make it to the deep end, or, in this case, to break out of "the presumptions of approximate and habitual seeing" box (in life and/or in pictures), is close to nil. Unless something in their daily drift screams out at them, visually speaking, it is a visual non-starter. The same is true of their picture viewing habits - if a picture doesn't hit them in eye like a big pizza pie, that's a-morte.

All of that said, what can a picture maker do to break the bonds of the presumptions of approximate and habitual seeing?

Well, as an example, how about the words of Eliot Porter when he stated:

You learn to see by practice. ... The more you look around at things, the more you see. The more you photograph, the more you realize what can be photographed and what can't be photographed. You just have to keep doing it.

Or, those of Stephen Shore:

I discovered that this camera was the technical means in photography of communicating what the world looks like in a state of heightened awareness. And it’s that awareness of really looking at the everyday world with clear and focused attention that I’m interested in.

Or, a bit of Henry Wessel + a bit of Sir Ansel:

... eyes open, receptive, sensing, and at some point, connecting. It's thrilling to be outside your mind, your eyes far ahead of your thoughts (HW) + ... I have found that too much concern about matters such as conventional composition may take the edge off the first inclusive reaction. (AA)

And, my oft-quoted advice (picture-making-as-a-result-of-fine-seeing wise) from Brooks Jensen:

Real photography begins when we let go of what we have been told is a good photograph and start photographing what we see. ...

... which I might amend to read:

Real seeing begins when we let go of what we have been told to look at and start looking, not just "with", but also "through" your own eyes.

In any event, speaking of seeing and contests, how many rectangles do you see in today's Rain / FOR LEASE picture?

Reader Comments (2)

Sorry, I'm not playing ball. I don't want to count all those bricks, or the fence slats!

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterColin Griffiths

Good post.

And I'm with Colin: too many bloody rectangles to bother counting!

March 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSven W

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