“We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect… but, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”
– Aaron Siskind
Photography has a unique quality, which is that the viewer usually starts with the assumption that the photograph represents what was really there. This gives the photographer greater freedom to challenge their viewers beliefs, to force them to “look twice”, as described in my last post.
As Siskind says, we have been “conditioned to expect” – it’s an ability which serves us well in navigating efficiently through our complex world. If we had to stop and carefully consider each situation we encounter, we’d get little done. With age and experience, we become better at knowing what to expect, which allows us to move more quickly, get more done.
It also causes us to overlook much of the sublime beauty and transcendent complexity of the world. One of arts finest attributes is it’s ability to provoke a more considered examination of the world. To create work that demands this, we must “relax our beliefs”, we must defer our own expectations lest they blind us. The attempt to do so forces us to relearn what we believe is there, allowing us to experience the beauty, the complexity that is too easy to overlook.
Even if we are unable to create art that has this effect on others, the effort to do so is it’s own reward. I wish everyone had the desire to create such art, not because there would be more great art to see, but because we’d all have greater appreciation for the world around us.
[By the way, on a technical note, the image above was captured in camera in a single exposure – talk about looking twice!]