S. Heiner fine art photography
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                   "Spring". 2004.
           Inkjet print, approx 7"x10".
                                                            On the Other Hand

     Search the internet for "photography and seeing" and a lot comes up. There are essays, books and videos on "seeing like a photographer" and learning to see through photography and "photography and the art of seeing." What photographers mean, I believe, when they talk about learning to see through photography is learning to notice certain things relevant to taking photos, for example, light, composition, and details. There's something to be said, however, for not learning to see like a photographer or if you already see like a photographer, relearning not to see like one.
     When I first started taking photos, I spent hours every day looking at the world in a way that was new to me. The world took on more depth, a lot more. There was something to explore visually everywhere. Old farm equipment became the subject of a photographic 'study' of rust or nostalgia or decrepitude. A fishing pier was a wellspring of potential photographs of hope, despair, triumph and loneliness, not to mention, of course, pelicans, sunsets and sailboats. On my way to anywhere, I routinely would stop the car, get out, and chase down whatever looked like a photograph, often braving terrain I wouldn't have dared cross before picking up a camera. Back then I'd whip the camera around at the first sign of a butterfly. Almost everything seemed like a potential picture: flowers, people at the bus stop, shimmering insect wings, parades, oil patterns in the water, dead animals, reflections.... I would lie on damp ground at the drop of a hat and take photos of clouds, floating turkey vultures, and light shooting through the treetops. As well as I remember, in those days I was wrapped in the joy --yes, joy-- of seeing the world, all of it, lit with possibility; and I'd come home everyday loaded with photographs of everything. The joy of it all was the joy of just being out there and taking it all in, both camera-wise and otherwise; and if I got a photograph that I liked, all the better.
     I've since learned to see more like a photographer; and much of what once was lit with possibility, now mostly looks commonplace. I see exponentially more details than I once did but they're more often than not distracting ones, like frayed or broken insect wings, dirt spots on windows, and shadows. As a result of my now seeing like a photographer, I've narrowed my areas of exploration to a very few specific places where I'm more likely to get an exhibit-worthy photograph; and it's increasingly difficult to remember how I 'saw' the world when I first got into photography. I've thrown away all but a handful of the thousands of photographs from those early days.
     A friend once recounted the following conversation he’d had with a truck driver:
    “I guess after all these years on the road you’ve seen some pretty interesting things.”
    “I sure have.”
    “So tell me,” my friend said, “what’s the most extraordinary thing you’ve seen.”
    “Well,” the man said, “I was driving through Colorado one beautiful spring morning.”
    “Yeah, and...”
    “That’s it.”
It feels like ages since I've seen a spring like that.