Why Seeing Should Not Be a Matter of Choice


Why is it that it’s easier for us to look and not see? And even when we’re looking, we don’t react to the scene. Instead of picking up the phone and making a quick picture of it, we just let the moment go by. However, this isn’t the case when you step out of the house with the purpose of making pictures. The seeing begins here. And now all of a sudden, your eyes are met with all these incredible opportunities. You start to notice the little things… Like the way the light drapes over a woman’s countenance, or the subtle paradoxes that exist in and around the city. The most banal of occurrences have now taken on an entirely new persona, all because you chose to see.

There are a few though for whom the seeing has never stopped. Seeing is their normal state of mind, like in the case of Joseph Koudelka. Where most people have to attune their senses and find meaning in the moment, he refrains from this. “Me, I do not try to understand. For me, the most beautiful thing is to wake up, to go out, and to look. At everything. Without anyone telling me you should look at this or that. I look at everything and I try to find what interests me, because when I set out, I don’t yet know what will interest me. Sometimes I photograph things that others would find stupid, but with which I can play around. Henri (Cartier-Bresson) as well says that before meeting a person, or seeing a country, he has to prepare himself. Not me. I try to react to what comes up. Afterwards, I may come back to it, perhaps every year, ten years in a row, and I will end by understanding.”

So, why is it not possible to see all the time? Why have we turned it into a matter of choice? Is it a lack of interest that prevents us from constantly seeing? It also seems like we have stopped photographing for the pure joy and love for it, and are more concerned about amassing photographs to flaunt. So, how do we start seeing? I am not quite sure. What I do know is that it has got to come from a place of sincerity and love for not just the craft, but for your surroundings and the individuals who constitute it.

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Better Photography.