A different lens
There are those who argue that we should look at the world through our eyes and not through our cameras – that we’re less present in the moment when we’re viewing the world through a lens. Having a mediated rather than a direct experience. Distancing ourselves from the world rather than immersing ourselves in it. And there is probably some truth in that – especially when we just snap away mindlessly, treating the world as nothing more than a backdrop for our selfies or as scenes to add to our scrapbook – and having shot, moving on.
But the opposite can also be true. When I look at something familiar through the lens of my camera, the familiar can become quite wonderful and strange. I close in on it, step back for a wider view, look at it from a variety of angles, play with exposure and effects, and actually give myself a deeper experience of the thing (or person) I’m looking at than I would have if I weren’t framing the image through my viewfinder. By the same token, when I look at something unfamiliar through my lens, it gives me a chance to become familiar with it as I engage with it for longer than I would if I were just passing by it, and puts a kind of exclamation point on the scene, where otherwise there would just be a period.
And then when I upload the photo to my laptop I can play with it again: crop it to my satisfaction, tinker with the lighting and colour, and create something that is both a memory and a work of art. OK, a minor work of art – Ansel Adams I’m not! But still something creative and satisfying, and I’ll dare to call it art.
I took several photography courses back in art school, which was (ahem) a rather long time ago: way back before iPhones made everyone a photographer; back before digital cameras were even thought of; back when you bought film in 24- or 36-shot rolls and composed each picture carefully because that was all you got, and if you failed to load your film properly, you got…nothing. (Yes, that happened to me a few times!) I shot almost exclusively in black and white in those days, and loved the magic of watching the image emerge from nothing as it soaked in its chemical bath. I still don’t feel the virtual images I shoot on my digital camera are entirely “real” – though maybe I’d take them more seriously if I got them printed. But I still love taking pictures, and I still believe the act of doing so helps me be more, not less, present in the world and gives me a different angle on reality than I’d get from seeing things only through my eyes.
I’ve started uploading some of my photos to Flickr. If you’d like to see them, please go to my Flickr page. Let me know what you think … and if you like what you see, come back from time to time because I’ll be uploading more at regular intervals.