The Art of Seeing

A Beginner’s Journey To Seeing

Purchase the book by Judith Farber: The Art of Seeing, on the Streets of NY

The Art of Seeing

It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head. – Henri Cartier-Bresson
Much of what we ‘see’ is influenced from what we we read, are taught by our parents and who we hang with. Learning how to see our surroundings from a place of openness and a meaningful point of view without words, is more challenging. Once we learn that there exists a way of seeing then we can expand our vision to the art of seeing.

Photography enables us to explore a deeper visual awareness of what we are normally oblivious to. It takes us on a journey that often parallels our day to day point of view. One might say there is a common link amongst great photographers of having a deep level of awareness and creating a vision. Dorothea Lange stated it best, “a camera is an instrument that teaches us to see without a camera.”

Learning how to create exciting photographs challenges us to discover an in depth view of our surroundings, a tool for exploring our world in more detail. Think of a child just beginning to see. Their eyes are pure and unburdened, everything is new. Getting bogged down by technique right away, often gets in the way. If you enjoy taking pictures, then you will certainly want to learn the technical aspects necessary to produce even better images. But first grasp how to see…retraining our eye, learn to speak with pictures and drawing with light. The most important aspect of composing images is to create one that you want to view again and again, with each time seeing something new.

A Great Photograph
A great photograph reveals something extraordinary from the ordinary simply by the way it is visualized by the photographer. The camera is life’s voyeur, merging the hidden observer with the subject. This could release that part of our self into one of less thinking and less caring of feeling foolish, to simply re-viewing life as a child. We’ve become used to seeing the world from our comfortable vantage point, our personal perspective. Try shooting the bizarre, change your perspective, change the angle of the camera, change your vantage point. Be open to the challenge of trial and error. If the results are less than you might expect, remember, there will always be another photographic situation. Photography, after all, is not just merely a means of reproduction, it is also art.

The Subject
When photographing a subject, HAVE PATIENCE, TAKE YOUR TIME! Do not rush or you could end up with a snapshot! Again, explore all possibilities. Taking your time, allows for more options. Decide if the subject will be alone, or to include additions, such as architectural interest, etc. Visualize the final outcome. I’ve asked my younger students to create a circle with their index finger with thumb. Look closely through it as if it is your personal lens, separating the world from the subject. Everything within this lens must be perfect. View subjects from different angles, choose the best time of day for light, look for interesting drama with hot spots, zoom in/out, find a great background from the simple to the complex, look for emotions to create a mood. If the subject is a small child or animal, shoot from their level, but always experiment with all levels. Avoid cutting the subject off at  the feet. Everything you keep within the frame needs to be strong. The subject can be facing the camera, or for more drama, looking away or even down. Think about leaving space in that direction, giving them thinking room, thereby, allowing the viewer to imagine what the subject is doing or thinking. Also, by placing the subject off center adds an artistic edge to the final image adding visual appeal. Placing a subject dead center could also add strength to the image when a balance is needed. Experiment and your eye will eventually feel the right position.

The best way to build a good foundation in photography is to first spend time in a bookstore (and less of those out there lately), looking at great photography in magazines, and of course…..TAKE CLASSES! Learn all there is in how to compose and frame and all your camera’s functions. Get out and take photos. Then have your photos critiqued with valuable feedback with Judith to further understand your good and weak points, finding your style and reclaim your passion.

Enjoy the process!

© judith farber