As children we are filled with a certain sense of wonderment while navigating through our surrondings. So many things, on a daily basis, are competely new experiences for us. Even the mundane, when unfamiliar, carries with it some degree of excitement. As we age we experience more and more and begin taking things for granted. This is certainly not a new idea, in fact it is an idea that is almost universally recognized. Even the most hardend among us can see a bit of ourselves in the wide eyes of a curious child.
What divides us beyond this recognition is our commitment, and possibly our capacity, to resist the complacency which goes hand in hand with familiarity. No sense is more affected than vision. Most people continue to relish sounds in many forms; music, birds, insects on a summer night, even the still quiet of a snowy afternoon. Who among us doesn't delight in the soft touch of a lover, the comfort of a hot fire or cool relief of the swimming pool? As modern Americans our love of food and it's smells are evident by our collective waistline. Our vision, however, often requires a remarkable expanse of ocean, our contries grand vistas or Hollywood's special effects to ellicit the same types of response. Or, at the very least, something new.
The best comparison I've drawn is the process of reading. As we learn, it's all syllables and sounds, words relating to each other in rhyme and tone, in measure and meaning. The more comfortable we become with the written language the more automatic the action and suddenly we're reading by mere assimilation.
In this way I parallel photographer and poet. Neither seem to tire of the building blocks of thier trade, of vision and words. As a teenager it was a writer and friend that opened my conscious mind to that with which I was struggling on a more subconcious level. She wrote the following in a letter.
"Today was slow; normal system of wake, work and home - perfectly unremarkable if not for some stolen glimpses of beauty - like when Dad pulled the car under a sprinkler and the water just glowed on the windshield and suddenly everything was beautiful. I love it when life just explodes like that!"
Those words struck a chord with me, aroused something that was struggling to stay significant, to stay awake. It was at this time that my battle for control, quite literally, of my vision began. What a meaningful and rewarding endevour it has been. In the words of Edward Weston, I was learning to see "through one's eyes and not with them", to open my mind to the subtle and transient beauty made manifest by the perpetual play of light and shadow in the everyday.
While rewarding in itself, learning (or perhaps re-learning) this manner of seeing is only the first step in becoming a photographer. Much like the poet, recognition of the potentiality is only the beginning, next comes the composition and the presentation...