Observing

As photographers, our first instinct when we see something interesting is to take a picture, so we can capture and remember every intricate detail. This can be a wonderful tool, but it can also become a crippling excuse to forsake our observational skills because the camera is doing it for us. Observing the last few days without a camera has caused me to realize how much I have come to rely on my camera to do the observing for me, almost like I’d rather observe from a photo than from real life. Not only does that backwards concept relate to our society in general, because we have the mindset that we would rather experience something virtually than physically, it also brings up “The Treachery of Images” painting by Rene Magritte as mentioned in the text “Observing” by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein. No matter what degree of detail is captured by a photograph or photo realistic painting, it is still just a two-dimensional representation of a real thing. The value of the real and the skills of observation that come only from experience will never truly be replaced.

I accidentally broke the bulb on an electric window candle today, and observed the jagged and crisp breaks in the thin glass. Last night at work, I broke a rocks glass on the floor, and noted how the glass flaked off into a fine white powder, with the larger pieces breaking geometrically. I smashed my finger underneath a heavy stack of plates and saw the throbbing as the area swelled and the color changed from peach to mauve. Walking to class behind a chain smoker, I inhaled a little deeper than normal and observed that I could detect hints in the smoke that were reminiscent of the smell of my puppy’s poop after eating white rice. Funny what we can observe if we set our minds to it.

Nearly all of my hours are spent in three places: Work, Class, and Bed. Since photographing in the latter two locations is frowned upon or impossible, I snuck my camera into work at Champs Sports Bar. I spend 40 hours a week bartending in the downstairs pool bar and I can’t describe how often I’ve been bored to tears from lack of customers. All the while, I had no idea all of the unique details that existed there.

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