01 April 2019
Taken in Camera+ and edited in Snapseed, Stackables and Pixlr.
Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.
As I drove home through a wildlife sanctuary, a single query kept me focused. When I see a scene does another person truly see what I do? When I see a tree from one direction, how does my mind fixate on its interpretation, and someone else spy a different configuration. Ultimately, how we analyze our visual universe becomes a matter of individual perception, and motivated by our communication through words. Images become language. Language as a human construct is how we navigate in and among our world.
The English art critic and author John Berger (1926-2017) introduced his influential ideas about our observations of the world in his ground-breaking book, Ways of Seeing (1972; I recommend the original book over the BBC series of the same title, which can be found on YouTube). His premise was that what is in our sights is observed before it is translated into words. This idea seems simple but it carried wide implications, and today continues to carry huge weight. Berger used art to explain his ideas, and it made for a perfect theme for his theory.
“But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” ~~ John Berger
Each of us has a precise and even at times malleable point of view (based on nature vs. nurture, knowledge experience and…) that is reflected in our interpretation of the outer world. Within our unique character we edit how we see, include, exclude, respond.
Spring greatly influences the trajectory of my mind’s meanderings, and its appearance as slow, cantor or gallop seems to prove its power over me. During that journey into the countryside the forest was on the edge of fully awakening and wildflowers were scattered in plain view and just waiting for approval. The excess of rain this winter has produced perky varieties and ones usually in hiding. Seeing becomes a joyous exploration.
Other more obvious signs of the season are the budding and leafing of early blooming trees. Each conjures small miracles that pervades the landscape and catches us in its visual grasp. That array of flowering and leaf unfolding is mesmerizing every spring; it has a fantastical essence, bringing exuberance just when the spirit needs a boost from winter’s grey ambiance.
In the Lens section is my attempt to create a composite that exemplifies what sparks my senses during the season’s arrival and progress. The photomontage expresses the grace of the branch of a hornbeam as it covets the blooming of spring’s greenery, giving hope in the promise. That welling of emotion that I feel comes from those hues that become emblematic of the season, awakening from hibernation and giving meaning to nature’s awe-inspiring bounty. In but a few weeks everything in view will startle and secure what we see; everything we see will force us to pay attention to the majesty of the earth and nature as master of the universe.
There is no better time to test our ways of seeing than during a change in seasons. each season incites in me an improvisational seeing: soulful reaction to the gifts of a landscape tempered with memory, time and the present. I’m ready for the greening of spring and my heart.