Are we just Seeing-machines ?

Are we just seeing-machines is an important question we need to ask ourselves.

We live in an era of information in which our eyes and ears are used primarily for collecting, scanning and filtering data. They have become tools for gathering and transmitting information. We have become fascinated by this new world. The unprecedented amount and richness of data makes us live in an abstract, sophisticated world of concepts and ideas. Our mind no longer sees what our eyes see naturally. A disconnect is created. The more we feel at home in an objectified world, the less we connect with what is real – what is right in front of our eyes. We no longer appreciate and enjoy the fundamentals of sight, namely light, colors, contrasts, forms, shapes, textures etc.

This dominating, conceptual mind is also called the discriminating mind. Its approach to photography is overwhelmingly mechanical and drains us of our vitality. This is not to say that technology is not useful. The problem is that we give it too much importance. It overrides everything else. We belief this is the only way to go forward, not realizing that an alternative approach to ‘seeing’ is possible.

In contrast, a contemplative approach does not give priority to technique, to a discriminating mind. It emphasizes the quality of ‘seeing’ which provides us with a different point of view. It does so by weakening our sense of self and by loosening the sense of control we so cherish.

The key is to allow ‘seeing’ to happen. It means, for example, not to try to be creative, not to follow an agenda when going out to take pictures. There is no need to look for a photographic subject, or to pre-visualize etc. Nor would we be concerned about outcomes or results. It means to be able to suspend expectations, imagination and judgement.

By allowing ‘seeing’ just to be, we no longer buy into our ambitions, we no longer hunt around with our eyes in search for this or that. Allowing facilitates the occurrence of flashes of perception. They reconnect us directly with the totality of our experience. At that instant we feel fully alive and fulfilled. The conceptual filters have dropped away and we are no longer separated from our perception. At least for a moment we are one with it, we are all “eyes and ears”. Along with it comes the sense that ‘I’, the ‘self’ is not the creator. The content or what we perceive no longer matters. Photography is not what’s important . What does matter are the selfless moments. They turn our picture making into authentic gifts.

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