“It is not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau. Who knew that Thoreau was a photographer?
For me photography has been more about how we see things and relate those experiences to larger thoughts. Both technically and aesthetically, I like to think in terms of relationships and how everything is interrelated. Just as a F-Stops relates to Shutter Speeds, what we see today relates to other things that we have seen or felt in the past. What I have read about the Mississippi in Mark Twain’s book, Life on the Mississippi, has added deeply to my understanding of the river today, more than a hundred years after the book was written.
Edward Weston’s photography seemed to be always more about the larger meaning of the subjects of his photographs than it was about the literal depiction of the subject. True, his pepper was still a pepper, but in Weston’s hands it became a metaphor of the human form, which in turn became a metaphor of the universality of shape and form. The photographs that I am most attracted to are those that I can look at and see more than what the picture is actually of.
A former student of mine once complained that there was no new subject matter to photograph. I told him that was true, but there is still an unlimited number of ways to present any subject and an unlimited number of ways to see even the most common subjects.