I am always working on seeing rather than looking.
For me seeing is an active act, a conscious decision to observe the world especially its more subtle and nuanced offerings.
Looking is what most people in the world do. They look at things but they do not see them. It is all just visual noise and if it doesn’t relate as something of importance to them, it is simply overlooked and ignored.
Active seeing removes such a filter from my observations and allows me to consider the visual value of anything and everything. Seeing dissuades me from looking at the world so literally where a chair is simply a chair, a table is just a table, a flower is just another flower. Seeing reveals these same elements for how they interact with light and shadow, line and shape, color and gesture. Their visual weight moves beyond their function to how they are revealed within the viewfinder of my camera. I can juxtapose those elements that normally have no relationship to each other in the real world, but that within the context of the frame are forever connected.
This kind of seeing does not come easy. It is not developed by shooting every couple of weeks or only when I am on vacation. It is a skill that has to be nurtured and refined on a daily basis. It is like the muscles of a bodybuilder that has to be stressed and worked with consistency and regularity. If it isn’t it turns to its normal state and loses its power and strength. It becomes as ordinary as everyone else’s.
When I was a young photographer and frustrated by my lack of growth, I only had to look at the infrequency of my practice of photography and hence my seeing. Three or four times a month for a couple of hours may be fun, but it did not result in me achieving much more than the occasional pleasing shot.
It was when I began to always carry a camera with me and carefully observe and see the world around me. It happened when I was willing to embrace even the more ordinary and mundane scenes and moments around me and allowed myself to appreciate the potential that they offered.
Soon the pleasure of seeing became a permanent fixture of my life, whether or not I chose to make a photograph. Once turned on, it was a way of experiencing moments and things that I could not turn off even if I wanted to. Most importantly, it made the moments I photographed as seamless a part of my normal way of actively seeing.
I was seeing, with or without a camera. I was discovering what everyone else was completely oblivious to. It was in front of many, but I was the only one seeing it and the camera provided me the means by which I could capture it and show everyone else what they were and are missing.