The battle for Vision

Siberian churchWhat is vision? We hear it talked about a lot especially in photography circles. Whether its online, in your local camera store, or even amongst friends at a camera club gathering, it’s everywhere; but what is it and what is it all about.

I will begin by saying that David duChemin has written extensively on this subject and I would recommend that you check out his stuff.

But I would like to say a few things on what vision is to me and what it is like from the perspective of someone who wrestles with it constantly.

In photography, vision is everything. What separates an average picture of something unremarkable and a stunning image is VISION. There is so much that going into creating a great image. What am I taking a picture of? Why am I taking this picture? I am a believer that every picture is intended to tell a story. A great picture is one that invokes a response (emotional, physical, etc.). The content of the picture is part of a bigger story that is being told. Scott Bourne puts it this way:

“When you view a photograph – it’s as if time stood still for that moment. You get to really, really look deeply into that precise moment in time and study its inherent power. You get the chance to revel in it. You get the chance to marvel at it. You get the chance to catalog it in your brain forever. You get to celebrate it.”

When I was first getting into photography I, as many people, had this idea that a great photographer just pushes the shutter release and bam, straight out of the camera comes a compelling image ready to be published. I actually went into my first few assignments with this mentality. I came to the conclusion quickly though that it was not going to happen that way.

I looked at images captured by photographers I followed and wondered what they were doing differently. I was trying to do something I didn’t know anything about. The results, frustration. I lacked vision. I didn’t know why I was photographing what I was and I didn’t know what story I was trying to tell with my images. It wasn’t until I realized the organic nature of vision and that there is no formulaic quality to great photography (outside the formula of practice, practice, practice)

So why do we wrestle with vision? We first have to understand that our vision is constantly being influenced by what is going on around us. The things that we are taking in and processing are shaping our vision, so in one sense our vision is constantly facing change (I would like to state that I am not talking about our photographic style but rather viewing vision and style as two separate things). Vision is something we must train and develop, it is woven into our very being, we just don’t always know how to express it. Our vision must be developed and honed. We may have vision but if we don’t know how to use it we might as well check it at the door.

I find that the more pictures I take the more easily I can see things. By challenging my vision and developing it through the process of getting out and taking sketch images that more than likely will not turn into anything, I am learning to see things that I would have otherwise missed.

Vision must be developed and put into practice, otherwise we are just taking pictures that will add to the millions of other images floating in the photographic abyss of blah.