Saturday, August 04, 2012

Looking and seeing No. 2

click photo to enlarge
In 2008 I wrote a blog post called "Looking and Seeing" in which I briefly attempted to articulate something of the distinction between those two words. It's a topic I find interesting and I want to return to it today.

When people ask me what my interests are my stock response is "everything". That's not true, of course: no one can or should be interested in everything. However, it's easier to say that than to recite an extremely long list of subjects, and it succinctly makes the point that in learning and education I have always valued width over depth (or narrow-mindedness as I have been known to call it). The reason for this is that I long ago realised that I rejoice in what I see, that the visual is very important to me, and that my life is immeasurably enriched by looking, and by thinking about what I see.

It took me many years to appreciate that a walk down a street or a stroll in the countryside can be a source of interest, pleasure and education for some and an empty experience for others. That where some see, for example, fragments of our past that interlock to create meaning, planned vistas that invite our judgement on their success or otherwise, modelled forms with colour, shape and line, wildlife characteristic (or not) of a location, or landforms that reveal something of the genesis and use of the locality down the ages, others see urban or rural monotony, a place "like any other" that is "boring". Those widely differing experiences sum up another difference between looking and seeing. A person sees only when their eyes work in tandem with a brain that is inquisitive and knowledgeable, that is open to sensation as well as enquiry. Otherwise they just look and they see very little.

I've neglected my blogging of late. PhotoReflect has been on autopilot while I have been enjoying my family and some time away in Suffolk. The other day, walking along the beach at Aldeburgh, my eye was drawn to the small fragment of the landscape in my photograph above. It wasn't the crab pots (or are they lobster pots?) themselves, a fairly hackneyed photographic subject, but the juxtaposition of the three strong colours - red/brown, blue and yellow (plus the black of the shed). I've always enjoyed combinations of these colours in this range, and it was that alone that prompted me to take my shot. Photography is a great aid to seeing rather than just looking, and I find that many of my images, as well as those of photographers whose work I like, stem from this facility.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 82mm
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 160
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On