The Art of Seeing: 10 Life Lessons

What I like about photography has little to do with the mechanics.  Sure, I tinker with the aperture and shutter speed.  I appreciate the value of a good lens.  And I will do some minor photo editing. But at the end of the day, no amount of technical sophistication can replace what lies at the heart of it all: the art of seeing.  

When I go on a photoshoot, I deliberately try and look at the world differently.  I move with a sort of heightened receptivity to my surroundings. I become acutely aware of light and shadow, foreground and background, and I scan the space around me for interesting details or stories.  And this approach has allowed me to find and capture some extraordinary things.  Or to frame ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

In this state, I can become mesmerized by the way the sunlight filters through the leaves of a tree, or the way a shadow falls on the ground, or the way a woman's hair blows in the wind while she waits to cross the street.  A street merchant or a pigeon on a sidewalk may well contain the day's magic.

I consider a macro and a micro perspective. And degrees in between. Do I want the whole skyline, or do I want to close in on one particular storefront that has a certain appeal?  Or perhaps there is one character, leaning outside that storefront, with a certain look and feel that would make for something special. 

Or maybe, if I just look down, I will see the architecture of the city reflected brilliantly in a rain puddle.  

I try to use the art of seeing to capture interesting images in my photography. I also believe the art of seeing is paramount to our success as individuals and as organizations.  

The ability to see differently, to consider a thing from different angles, to recognize trends and patterns in order to plot a course, is paramount to innovation itself. The world is moving at an unprecedented rate, and the ability to navigate change and to tackle unique challenges hinges on our ability to see new ways ahead.  As technology and access to information become increasingly ubiquitous, and as the digital dimension continues to claim space, the art of seeing will become increasingly critical.  What really matters?  How to find a way through the maze? How to discern that which is authentic from that which is not?  

As we begin another year, I thought I might share a few lessons I have learned about the art of seeing:

1.  Change your lens regularly.  Sometimes you need to pan out to see the bigger picture; sometimes you need to get close up.  Sometimes you just need to focus. 

2. Be wary of singular focus.  The periphery is filled with amazing things.

3.  Recognize that opportunities don't always announce themselves clearly; they are most often disguised and too often missed as a result. 

4. Notice signs and patterns - life gives clues.

5.  Linger in uncertainty.  Keats called this "negative capability."  Don't rush to label the things you find or to put them in a box.  Let there be mystery.

6.  Remember to look around sometimes - life happens in all directions. Don't be seduced by the straight lines. 

7. Look for ways to bring a moment to its realization. Dare to ask. Be brave enough to say hello. Or to walk away. 

8.  In dark times, there is always light.  Look for the light.

9.  Find the opportunity that exists when faced with a difficult challenge. Tough times can bring out our best.

10.  Be patient.  When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears.


Here is to a wonderful year!


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