Mission District, San Francisco – Learning to See

A long time ago I discovered that I had acquired the habit of photography at the exclusion of comprehension. In practicing photography I had learned a greater facility for observation – to the point that I was seeing photographs everywhere. I then made the mistake of trying to capture all of them. I was making lots of photos, but it wasn’t until processing them that I actually took time to see what was there.

I took a break from photography, a day or two at a time, sometimes a month. I still practiced observing and I found lots more photographs, but kept my hands in my pockets.

It worked. I often give myself a long pause before lifting the camera to my eye. Time to just be another human being looking at something with my full attention. What happened is a change in my photographs. I would shoot the ideas I initially have and the new ideas that grew while just looking. The newer ideas have been the most satisfying.

This photograph illustrates something else that grew from that new attentiveness: my ability to rapidly recognize an opportunity and jump on it. This photo is the antithesis of just seeing – I grabbed this while walking across a busy intersection by turning back for only a few seconds. I had not time to linger.

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About Stephen Foster

I have been pressing a camera to my face since I was twelve years old; if you look closely, you can see the marks. View all posts by Stephen Foster

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