05 Jul “It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see”
I learnt a hugely valuable lesson yesterday that started while scrolling through Facebook…good things are always worth sharing, so let me tell you the story…
Ion Paciu is a photographer who was signposted to me by my new found photographer friend, Gayle. I had posted one of Steve McCurry’s photos of a novice monk that has now become one of my favourite photographs. Gayle said I might like the work of Ion Paciu who embarked on a street project, “People I didn’t know“. I love photographing people and so found this really interesting and enjoyed looking through the photographs. His photography really resonated with me and so I liked the page and didn’t think much more about it.
A few days later, while scrolling through Facebook (like you do), I saw a photo by Ion of a bright green parrot in the garden. He asked for thoughts on the photograph. I said that aside from the bright green contrast against the dark background, I was struck by how the curve on the parrot’s tail mimicked the natural curve of the tree’s branches. I’ve never really studied photographs, other than my first impression when I look at them, so enjoyed this very brief critique and once again didn’t think much more about it.
Moving forward a few days, just yesterday actually, Ion posted this photograph:
My first thought, before even reading the comment, was that it was quite uninteresting and because it was black and white with little contrast, nothing really stood out. I was about to move on and noticed Ion’s comment, “Good morning all. This is my favourite photograph of all time. I own a large copy, a mounted print which I purchased directly from the copyrights owner, the image is displayed on the wall, near my desk, along with my second favourite image (which I will share over the next days).
What do you think about this image? “
I was bemused, why was this his favourite image I wondered. I just couldn’t see it myself. I posted a comment that asked why this was his favourite image, to which he responded, “have a look at the image and tell me why.” Patience is a work in progress for me and I realised in that moment that although I often come across photographs or paintings I love, I don’t actually really study them, ever. For this reason, I felt childlike, like I was really seeing something for the first time. I studied the photograph for some time, without judgement, just really immersing myself in the image. So much occurred during those few moments and as a synopsis, here is my comment on Ion’s post:
“When I first looked at it, I thought it just blurred into one a bit because of there being no stark contrast. I read the caption and being the impatient Miss that I am, asked the question and actually felt childlike going back to look at it. Clueless really as to what I was looking for, but I say childlike because I felt inquisitive….so, after several moments of taking it all in, I feel more curious….what are they doing (sorry if this is obvious to everyone else!) What is their relationship? Suddenly as I look at it, I am struck by the serenity of the moment. Almost as though I am intruding on such an intimate moment…delicate and peaceful with the lilies and the contrast I see suddenly in the rushes against the water….so many reflections in the water when you really look. So many elements jumping out at me…the trees in the distance…and what is the boat doing in the background I wonder. Then, I look back to the people in the boat…perfectly sheltered by a semi circle of rushes…it’s mysterious and ephemeral. The idea of looking at a photograph and even contemplating anything technical is gone…I am there and it has hooked me and I want to know more…a whole beautiful story in a tiny second.”
In reply to my post, Ion said, “It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see.“
The following morning, today that is, there was an unexpected reply to my comment from Ion, saying well done to my friend Gayle (who also commented on the photograph) and I and offering a present of a one day, one to two photography lesson to take together at his Photography School, Photion, in Central London complete with loan of DSLR cameras and lenses to use if we need them and to have a lovely day! So grateful for such an unexpected gift.
This has been such a pivotal lesson and one that I can see really spills out into your life…..allowing yourself time to really take in what you are looking at enables you to see….when you are impatient looking and seeing are synonymous. Patience separates the two – when you look you are not connected, but when you see, you feel and that’s connection….to me this is what photography is all about but it is also what life is about….and once you are connected, the story begins…
“It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see”