Photography by Adrian Harris

thinking through seeing

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Seeing with a Beginner’s Eye

Most photographs today create versions of the Romantic picturesque or rehash the Modernism of the late 20th century. Mine are no different, because it’s really hard to see photographically outside those frames. It’s partly about how our minds work: We see what we’re looking for. The Zen master Shunryu Suzuki advocated adopting a beginner’s mind in our mediation practice: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” Can I learn to see with a beginner’s eye?

Those who consistently manage to create images outside the classic frames are the true greats of photography. I’m thinking of artists like Trent Parke (b. 1971), Duane Michals (b. 1933) and Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971).

When I see a beautiful photo, I’ll feel good and probably think something like “Oh, that’s lovely!’ When I see a great photo, my eyes widen and my visual vocabulary expands. I may never see things quite the same again because my world has got bigger.

I fairly often take a photo I think looks good. It fits one of those conventional artistic frames I mentioned. This is a fair example.

Autumn

It’s a classic still life and I’m aiming – at most – for a ‘That’s nice’ response.

The Silver Fish

This is an attempt to do something different and it breaks some of the standard rules. A dead fish isn’t an obvious subject for a photo and the depth of focus is quite narrow. But I find this image more interesting than the one above it. Maybe that’s just me! What do you think?