A scene photographed from a different perspective, can remarkably tell another story. [composite of two images]
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  • A scene photographed from a different perspective, can remarkably tell another story. [composite of two images]
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Dwight Pinkley

Photography changes our general state of awareness

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Dwight Pinkley

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Dwight Pinkley, U.S. Foreign Service Officer on assignment in Switzerland, writes about how photography encourages a heightened sense of awareness.

Most of us go through life, moving from place to place, changing our point in space, in order to complete some task, reach some goal, or simply pass the time. But what remains in our minds eye, what we are conscience of, is only a sensation of where we have been or where we are. Sometimes we remember the journey too, but again, only as a blur.

For instance, how many times have any of us hopped into a car and semi-automatically driven to a point we are familiar with, thinking all the time about a million things that have nothing to do with the journey. Or when going on a walk to look at the sights, perhaps while on vacation to a new place, we look at many things, even comment on them, but take in only generally what is happening around us.

Just taking a picture really doesn’t change any of this. When we snap a picture of friends or family, or even when taking a picture of a pretty scene, we are again just looking and recording what is in front of us. We look at many things all the time, but do we really see?

The transformation occurs not when we pick up a camera, but when we don’t need a camera to see something unique and amazing. Taking pictures is about recording something we are looking at. Photography is when we capture something special we see. After you compose your first photograph, having looked and looked at the same thing, from different angles and in different light, closer or farther, higher or lower, something wonderful happens to how you see the world.

You no longer walk or drive from place to place daydreaming along the way. Now every person or thing along your path, near and far, become objects of scrutiny, your mind calculating the best angle and the best light, the just right perspective, to capture something unique or to tell a story. You are bombarded with macro and micro images, and you find yourself looking at shiny surfaces for reflections, or shadows, or the patterns of the bricks in the road, or the roof top facades of houses along the streets. Shiny leaves blown against a fence after a storm fascinate you, and the backs of statue’s heads are just as interesting to you as their faces.

The funny thing is, once you become a photographer, you no longer need a camera to see what is going on around you. You certainly want your camera with you to capture what you look for and see, but once you start discovering the special and the unique around you, you never stop looking for the next. The world is much more exciting and interesting for the photographer, but for those who have not yet become aware, there are always galleries and museums of photographers work, capturing what they have seen, so everyone can look at it.

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