Task 3 – Direct your gaze outwards
Turn your gaze outwards
Using the camera can provide an excuse for making contact with other people. It is like a gateway into other people’s lives. Regardless of whether we photograph people, nature or objects, the camera forces us to look through it and out at the world. In this photo, the color blue runs through the caravan, the curtains of the tent and the sky. This creates a rhythm of color in the picture that is broken by the yellow chair. The eye loves the repetition of shapes and colors just like the ear loves rhythms and harmonies. Where is the light coming from in this picture? Should I have removed the yellow chair?
HAMAR, NORWAY, 2011. Photo: Torkil Færø
In elementary school I felt sorry for myself. I can still remember the horrible feeling in my stomach after I had been beaten up once again in the school yard. I never knew when they are going to come after me and I always had to be on my guard. I didn’t stand a chance against them. Of course, they picked out the weakest person in the playground, the one who was unable to put up any resistance or say anything. The bullying went on for two long years but now almost the only thing I remember from it is the horrible feeling I had in my stomach. That and the blood in my bowel movements and the clay-like glue they used to attach EEG electrodes to my head when they found out that all the hits I had received had left their mark on me.
Eventually, I grew tired of feeling sorry for myself. I realized that it wasn’t doing anything for me at all. I began to focus on astronomy, soccer and the great big world outside. I wanted to learn how to fly, write a bestseller and start a company. That helped. No matter how small I felt, the world was bigger and a lot more interesting. I moved the focus of my attention from the nightmare I had experienced and into my dreams, dreams that are still providing fuel for me today.
It is easy to ‘turn the camera’ towards ourselves, to think about how we feel, what we feel, and whether we are important or worthless as people. By nature we have a lot of self-centered
feelings: anger, jealousy, bitterness, being judgmental, indignation, sadness, etc. Those
people who struggle with these get slowly worn out while this simultaneously wears down the people who are the closest to them. They are dissatisfied with themselves and unfortunately their surroundings also have to pay the price.
Our brains are not capable of doing two complicated things at the same time. If our heads are occupied in a inner world of self-pity, then we don’t have the capacity to be aware of the outer world of abundance. Much of what is therapeutic about photography is in the turning of our gaze outwards towards the interesting things that exist completely independent of how we feel.
Are you good at looking outwards? If your answer is “Yes”, you may want to put yourself into the shoes of a self-centered friend. See the world through others’ eyes and think the following: Is it easy for you to focus on yourself too much?
How relevant is this issue for you on a scale of 1 to 6?
As photographers we look out at the world, through a lens, from inside our own heads. See the waves crash into the shore. Watch a sprout grow in your neighbor’s greenhouse. See the mailman doing his route. What you focus on is important and it is in the camera’s nature to find a focus. Do you feel your hunter’s instinct kicking in? Or an instinct towards gathering? We were created to do this, to seek and find new things, to capture what we want. Each minute we manage to maintain our focus outwards counts.
Photography is a form of meditation with our eyes open while we focus on what is happening outside of us and not inwardly. Through photography we can practice healthy self-forgetfulness. When the mind is busy observing the rich variety, mystery and beauty of the world, it has no capacity for the often unhealthy self-focus.
Find something interesting to point your camera at:
Feel how good it is to direct your attention at something outside of yourself.
How useful was this task for you on a scale of 1 to 6?
BOOK SUGGESTION: Art Can Help by Robert Adams