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Look again

Why I take and share photos

Leaf in water on stone

This photo is oddly one of my favorites. I can make no claims to its intrinsic value, and my equipment was surely not up to a photographer's standards. It illustrates what I would like to say about amateur photography...and perhaps amateur everything for that matter. I'll tell you about the photo at the end.

I believe--as an amateur--that there are essentially two approaches to photography. One is to capture what is already visible by way of all the techniques required for the perfect shot. Another is to evoke what is not apparent to the ordinary eye or to suggest something beyond what is visible. There is a similar dichotomy in writing, between prose and poetry. Prose seeks to describe something, whereas poetry is the thing in itself. These two approaches are not always mutually exclusive, and endless examples illustrate the range in between the two.

We now live in an age where the number of available images has increased exponentially. In Paris along, perhaps the most photographed city in the world, thousands of photos will be taken each day. Even I have joined the club, and ask myself why. I have taken hundreds of photos of Paris myself, even though there are hundreds that have been taken by professionals. What is the point, really? Even my teenage son was able to point out that my photos were not professional. I asked him how he knew. He said the definition was not high enough, and that I should have used more advanced equipment.

When it comes to photos I have taken of Paris, for which I have received numerous expressions of joy, I would like to honestly admit that I know next to nothing about photography and do not own a proper camera. I plead guilty to all of the imperfections that a professional could point out. This I do know: my eyes fall in love with what I see, and they want to frame the scene into one of beauty and balance before I have a chance to catch my breath. Another thing I know is that each morning brings a new miracle. All I have to do is show up for the dawn. There may be other things I know, but do not know that I know them.

What I have said about my Paris photos holds true for the many other places I have visited. The photo souvenirs I have taken add nothing to the beauty of what I beheld. I just bothered to notice what others may not have seen if they were following a guide book. I called this album 'The World As I See It".

What is of greater interest to me is how we create beauty through our regard-- the very way we look at the world around us. It is when we are moved by what moves within us that we break through the shell of our conventional, fabricated self. Professional or amateur, let us beget beauty into the world by our singular regard. Let us make manifest what others do not see: the beauty of our soul, the beauty from which we are born, and to which we return.*

The photo I have included reminds me of another that I took in Japan, and another I took in a village stream. This one, however, is none other than a photo of the gutter on a street around the block from where I live on the east side of Paris. There is water, there is stone, there is the autumn leaf, all together in a place where none have bothered to look.

How long will we keep up our pursuit of happiness, unaware that heaven is within us?


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