Observation – The Holy Grail of Photography
Forgotten Memory, X100F
On the surface the photographic process appears to be easy and straightforward. You grab a camera and capture whatever you like. This is true for someone who doesn’t aim at creating a photograph but rather performs the mechanical task of pressing the shutter button to take a snap.
However, if you are interested in creating a photograph, the process is much more complex. Among other things it involves emotions, observation, connection, evaluation, composition, light and some technical considerations. Today, it appears that technicals have taken a central role and occupy the minds of photographers. If I could point to one area that has been the most ignored it is the art of observation.
Elliott Erwitt described it this way: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” While it may sound simple, for many people it is incredibly difficult to do.
As humans we are naturally wired to focus on important things and filter out all the rest. While such an approach has served us well over the ages, in creative photography it’s a major obstacle. In addition, our education system and our daily routine push us to see and react in a certain way. Have you noticed while walking around the city how your brain filters out the noise and visuals? We usually stroll around town without challenging what we see or how we see it.
In order to find “something interesting in an ordinary place” you must challenge your seeing. In other words, you need to break your seeing patterns and go for something new, uncomfortable and different.
While such a plan of action sounds great, it is incredible difficult to execute. The key ingredient of breaking our own seeing patterns is to go after visuals, which we miss. For example, while shooting on the streets of Vancouver, I usually include the human element into the frame. In the meantime, there are many scenes, which has no people in them but somehow they imply human activity. Another example would be shooting portraits or scenes with people but showing them in a new perspective and/or harmonizing them with the background.
There is a plethora of similar examples, which we discuss in-depth at our education and mentoring platform, Simplicity-In-Seeing. We also include specific exercises we use to break our usual seeing patterns.
What are your ways of breaking your seeing patterns?
Here are our latest visual explorations from the streets of Vancouver as seen through the X100F viewfinder.
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