Seeing what is there

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to an artist/photographer friend’s studio.  It was fascinating to see his works.  His walls were hung with completed paintings and mounted photos,  on his work table there were works in progress.  His cat was in charge of everything!

The visit was inspiring as well.  My friend is preparing for a solo exhibition in Indonesia later this year, and the theme is orchids.  But not just orchids, the heart of the orchid, the centre, the wellspring of new generations.  His vision is to see into the beginning.

With his photographs, he shoots macros of mostly inanimate objects.  These shots are so close that bark becomes completely abstract. Pebbles becomes shapes and forms rather than identifiable.  The colours are often monotone, giving the forms more depth and mystery.

We spent the afternoon drinking tea, talking art, photography, travel, making money and creating.  Over dinner we agreed that ‘seeing’ what is happening around us is important for our inspiration.  Not just seeing with our eyes but seeing with a vision.

When I looked at this photograph of the heart of a pansy flower – a very common garden flower – there was so much beneath the surface.  The likeness to human genitalia, the source of both our species and the flower species; the strong contrasting colours between petal and petal, between petal and heart, evoking thoughts of people of different races  and unreasoning prejudices; the moisture in the depths of the flower, nourishing new life.  So much below the surface, and yet so much of it seen only in my mind.

Looking at the visions expressed by others makes me question where do we find vision for ourselves? When we look around us, how do we learn to see the patterns in life and the heart of things?  Where does our vision of what we want to express come from? How do we find it in the external world if we are photographers?

Wynn Bullock looks into the depths with photography:

“In photography, if I am able to evoke not only a feeling of the reality of the surface physical world but also a feeling of the reality of existence that lies mysteriously and invisibly beneath its surface, I feel I have succeeded. At its best, photography is a symbol that not only serves to help illuminate some of the darkness of the unknown, but it also serves to lessen the fears that too often accompany the journeys from the known to the unknown.”

Looking at the reality that lies beneath the surface is where vision meets ‘taking a snap’ to create something with a greater meaning.  Finding the reality beneath has to come from within the photographers internal reality. We need to see deeply into ourselves so we can see more deeply into what is lying before us.

If a photographer does not evolve as a person, then the photographs will also not evolve.  If there is no personal growth, then there is no photographic growth, no matter how technically skilled the photographer is.  Each step of personal growth leads to a step in being able to create a deeper vision, of being able to see the reality beneath the surface.

So, a paraphrase of Proverbs 29:18 might be useful:

“Where there is no vision, the photograph perishes.”

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