May 14, 2023

Photographic Seeing

Photographic Seeing

"Why People Photograph", by Robert Adams

The other day I picked up "Why People Photograph" by Robert Adams at Dog Eared books. It is not a photography manual of any kind. Robert didn’t focus on aperture settings or the rule of thirds. Instead, he delved into how we see, really see, through a lens.

I bought my first camera years ago. Aimed it at sunsets, faces, and landscapes. Got my likes on social profiles. Felt good, but also a bit hollow. Adams made me realize why. I was capturing, not seeing.

He insists to investigate the "why" behind each click. Sounds like a buzzword, but it is a simple practice. I took time to revisit my old photos, seeing them anew. Some still held up; they told a story or caught a genuine emotion. Others felt shallow, like pretty but empty inside.

When I look through the lens now, it’s different. It's not about what's simply pleasing or dramatic. It's about what's true. Sometimes that’s a crooked tree, other times a cheerful smile or a faded sign. The frame is no longer just a stage for subjects; it’s a space for truths.

Robert suggests that great photos have a quietness about them, a visual hush that lets the viewer feel. I get that now. I now take an extra second, a deep breath, and mindfully compose that frame. This has also grown me as a designer.

Me on the hunt, shot by @milkovic

I used to think a good photograph ends the moment you press the shutter. The book taught me it’s just the beginning. It starts conversations, evokes reactions, sits in your memory, pokes at your thoughts.

Will everyone see what I see? Probably not. And that’s fine. I offer my perspective; you bring yours. My urge to impress is gradually fading. I used to think materials were subjects. Then as I matured, it was the light. Now I wonder, it had always been me.

All good things end.