Seeing Without a Camera

Dorthea Lange’s Immigrant Mother

Earlier in the week, I posted a quote by Dorthea Lange .  Born in 1895, Ms. Lange was not only one of the era’s iconic photographers, creating the image called Immigrant Mother in 1936, but she also went on to become one of the most influential photo journalist of the early 20th century.   She said “The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera”.   I love this quote and got to thinking about it some more over the weekend.  There is great truth in this stateement.  As a photographer, my journey into this art of seeing continues to expand.  Initially, even without a camera hanging from some appendage, I’d see landscapes or scenes in 4×6 ratio, framed as if looking through the viewfinder.  As my eye developed, I can not wander the landscape without seeing in shallow vs. full depth of field, color vs. monochrome, or vertical vs. horizontal.  I see shadows & light and how they interplay with each other.  While watching a movie or Breaking Bad, I see the time of day they were filming because I see the angle and color of light, shadows and texture.  I could never see any of this before!  And, I dare say, without the photographic eye, most people will never see these things.  Nowadays, most people barely notice each other, never mind the surrounding world, because they walk with their faces are buried in some sort of device.  They are missing out!

Seeing photographically has opened up the world to me in so many ways.  No longer is it cloudy or raining when I look out the window.  The clouds now have shape, form and texture.  They are wispy or puffy.  They sky is a particular shade of blue.  Grey days have become shades of grey (most of the time).

We see so much more, we notice so much more.  Without my camera, I see things most people just walk by.  I’m always looking up and down where most are looking straight ahead or, more common these days, down at their small screen device.  The camera was initially the window to my world and now, I live in that world.  If you can grow your eye to see images without the camera, you will open up not only the world you live in, but your photographic world, and the possibilities within, will expand exponentially.  You will become a better photographer, create better and more interesting images and, more importantly, develop a more profound appreciation of the world we live in.  See creatively and enjoy the ride.