Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Ways of seeing:

The power of great teaching.

During my MA photography over the last 2 years, I have had many moments of realization, moments of clarity, revelations not just about myself as a practitioner, but about the thing that is photography itself.

Struggling for inspiration during the MA I was advised more than once by my tutor Hugh Hamilton to continue examining my back garden, although I had suggested that I was completely exasperated by it, he had convinced me to look again (I was unable to get about much due to a knee operation, so the back garden became of interest) Hugh also suggested that I read ‘Ways of seeing’ by the fabulous and sadly recently deceased John Berger.

So I returned to the garden, and again saw the fence, the trees, the sky, the rooftops….. yawn…

Shot on a Mamiya RZ67, Kodak Tri-x 120 film. Scanned and Digitized. Feb/ March 2016

Then I read and watched (BBC series of the same name) then read again and re watched ‘Ways of seeing’

John Berger. Who is this guy? Where has he been all of my creative life?

Very quickly this book would become a point of reference that I would race to and one which would re appear in my text and thoughts many times during the MA.

To be a creative image maker, to make images that make your audience see, you have to understand that looking is not seeing, and within that one particular view is not the same as any other. With his words, his energy and his passion, what Berger does is to make you realize that although you may well have been looking, you have not been seeing at all, and once your realize this, you can begin to make stories where you have previously seen none.

Shot Sept 16 on a Rolleiflex, Kodak Tri-x 120 film. Scanned and Digitized. 

A simple quote by Berger that has remained with me...

'You painted a naked women because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and called the painting 'vanity' thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure' Berger (1972

Do you get it? I hadn't until I read Ways of Seeing.

I have learned to look past the obvious and to step away from the obsession I had with the technicalities of an image, and instead i began to see the image!

Following this awakening I began to find the back garden awash with great imagery! I would devote the following 18 months (And I continue still) to discover narratives which had been present the whole time. 

Both shot Sept/ Oct 2016 on a Rolleiflex, Kodak Tri-x 120 film. Scanned and Digitized. 

If you take this thought further, no matter where you happen to be, and whatever you may be looking at, you can find an image, a narrative, something interesting to photograph. 

By considering the way you are seeing, you will invite your audience to see for themselves. 

So stop waiting until you take that trip to New York or to the Australian Outback. Step out into your own back yard, the street, your office, and find a way of seeing!

Cheers all