Seeing a photograph isn’t about the electrical signal light creates when it hits the retina, it isn’t about the translation to an image the brain then creates. The emotion the photograph begets is when the visual acuity sharpens. A two-dimensional image doesn’t live on a flat surface when you view a photograph with your more than just your eyes.
I’m intrigued by windows and frames, the view through space we occupy, the perspective we see in every moment. I spend time trying to focus on only my peripheral vision and wonder how it could translate to a photograph. Would others see this photograph and recognize it as the periphery of one’s vision? I quickly dismiss this idea as it seems impossible to recreate, and assume it would make a horrible photograph. I take my peripheral visionary moments and practice Zen Photography, as every photograph I take with my Zen camera is most excellent and worthy of the utmost praise from the ‘people’ who will see it.
I want to share with you a few photographs over the coming weeks. Photographs where the perspective is peculiar, with extrinsic qualities.
Photograph #1 “A Street in Old Beijing” by Marc Riboud, a french photographer. The photographer seems to be hiding himself from the people on the street in order to capture perhaps a natural moment. There are six windows that give the photographer and view of the photograph a look into the street. The top three almost seem insignificant as there are no people, which upon close inspection you see that the sign reads ‘Prosperity’ in the top left, the smallest window shows space above the storefronts where these people must live – a place that would give you a view from above and into the place the photographer is standing. The far right window is vast and quite empty except for the small reflection which gives you a view of behind the image. Not terribly important but it adds to the depth of the viewpoints in this photograph.
There are three people in this photograph that see beyond the storefront that separates them from the photographer. The youngest of the viewers isn’t phased by the intrusion, the older man seated seems content in his position and not burden by what is happening anywhere in his surroundings. The young women in the frame on the right has a reluctance about her, she sees the photographer and looks as though she is pleading in silence. Once your focus comes to her your viewpoint changes. For me I no longer see the window frames, I no longer see the Chinese characters in the signs or the two others looking into the windows. My viewpoint instantly goes into my head, or her head and I’m seeing and feeling her emotion.
This photograph came from one moment, one lens, one viewpoint but the perspective is vastly complex.
I leave you with a quote from one the masters of photography, know for bringing a poetic spirit and texture to his work.
At first glance a photograph can inform us. At second glance it can reach us. – Minor White