‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.’

Henry David Thoreau


I can’t embed the image, but please please click the link to see the portrait. I found this image while randomly googling street/portrait photography that I’m working on.

I’m going to work with a special education teacher on a lesson that links poetry to emotions and photography. I’d like this lesson to emphasize skills for observing and actively viewing the world. There’s a huge difference between actively viewing and just looking. You can “look” at the words in a book and not read them. When you “read” you look, comprehend, and make sense of what you seeing. When you look, you just look. You see the words but you don’t necessarily put them together. Why some people don’t “get” art, is because they don’t take the time to actively view and sometimes read between the lines and make sense of what they’re seeing. Sometimes I’ll be showing images of artwork, and I’ll ask a student to tell me what they “see” and they’ll look at me like this:

When I rephrase that question, and instead of “What do you see?” I ask them, “What are we looking at?” for some reason, the wheels start turning in their brains. Instead of confused or disgruntled looks, we get pensive stares up at the projector like this:

and some thoughtful observations, like “a picture of a dude” which is a good start to a conversation about how this is a close up photograph, not just a picture, and he’s not just a dude he’s an older man.

As artists, we develop this skill which sometimes causes us to over-analyze things but also helps us to notice things that other people might miss. I’m passionate about helping these kids develop skills to help “make sense” of their world, and consciously viewing and not taking what you see for granted is a great way to start. Some things about this photograph that I love: 1. His pupils, I know too many random facts about what causes different “pupillary responses”, google it, it’s cool! Also the color of his eyes, they could be naturally blue but they could be discolored due to medical reasons. What do you think? 2. The contrast between his rich chocolatey skin and this wiry white beard. It makes me think of whenever I’m home doing my mom’s hair and how her brown hair cooperates without much fuss but those gray hairs want to stick out all over the place and do their own thing. The little 79 year old lady I work with told me “I’m old enough to do whatever the hell I want!”, that’s what I feel like those hairs are saying.  It also makes me think of this scripture. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory,  If it is found in the way of righteousness. ” Proverbs 16: 31 (NKJV translation, the difference between this and the ESV version is rather interesting, if you’re intrigued, check it out and make your own observation)

So many things to love about this simple photo.

I don’t want to risk sounding like a complete cheese ball, so I’m not going to tell you to take a second to find moments of beauty in your world today, I’ll just leave you with some beautiful words that may motivate you to do so.

‘Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.’ – — Carlos Castaneda

“My eyes are small but they have seen the beauty of enormous things” – David Crowder Band

‘To develop a complete mind, study the science of art, study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.’ — Leonardo Da Vinci

‘Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.’ — Edward de Bono

(and of course, my absolute favorite:)
Beauty is an experience, nothing else. It is not a fixed pattern or an arrangement of features. It is something felt, a glow or a communicated sense of fineness. What ails us is that our sense of beauty is so bruised and blunted, we miss all the best.”-D. H. Lawrence

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