Photography: Looking vs. Seeing

Dried leaves in tar

Sometimes things just hit me funny.  I’ve learned during those times to stop – stop walking, stop talking, stop thinking, stop looking.  Just stand there and keep asking what is striking me as so strange or odd.We recently had the streets in our neighborhood resurfaced.  All uniform dark black, shiny, and smooth.  Except they weren’t.  The weren’t smooth.  There were little pieces of what looked like dried lava all over the place.  I realized the crew had sprayed over leaves and other items that had fallen on the street.  My first thought was, ” why didn’t they blow this stuff off before sealing?”  What a mess.  And then as a looked closer. There was a strange beauty in the shapes and forms, in black, but not uniformly covered.  It reminded me of mummies you see in museums.  You can see through some of the preservation techniques to what existed originally.  I decided I was going to bring some home to photograph, but they were more fragile than I expected.  Disintegrating into my palm, not as rugged as something covered in tar should be.  I walked into the house, hands full of this stuff, gently holding it.  Peter took one look at me, and kept going about his business.  No questions.  This is one of the reasons why I love him so much.  I guess it will take a lot more to surprise him, or peak his curiosity.

Its nuanced, but seeing is different from looking.  When you see something, you see past your assumptions, past your brain’s automatic edit of what’s important, past your immediate interpretation of what the “thing” is.  You begin to see something that is different than what you expected.  You reflect on how its different, how its unique in its own way.

So I guess there are many different outcomes to when nature meets man.  I wonder how many of them end positively for nature.

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