Perceiving directly happens prior to any conceptualization by oneself, prior to any deliberate photographic action. One could say the picture is taken before you take it.
We take for granted that it is the I or you who takes the picture. By identifying with the attitude of a hunter in pursuit of images we build a fence around the subject or genre of photography. Then, one ends up with a particular kind of image for a particular purpose. In doing so one’s ego-centric self directs the process by planning, conceptualizing, deciding, imagining and so forth. With this approach uniqueness and creativity are seen as residing in one’s personal, reflecting self.
The Flash of Perception.
In photography, the flash of perception is a direct experience – without interference by a reflecting self. It catches the eye suddenly before one starts thinking and reflecting on what one sees. It is free of personal thoughts, feelings, and concepts and is not something one can fabricate. Being one with it for a moment, it resonates with oneself and one responds without any hesitation by reaching for the camera. Perceiving directly and responding is a seamless movement. Most surprisingly each flash has its own focus and is framed naturally.
What comes first?
In terms of order, it is the flash that comes first. You can see that if you observe carefully. Immediately after the flash a concept and label appears and superimposes itself like a filter. In terms of time, the reverse is possible: You may initially focus on something in particular because you find it interesting or beautiful. And then, suddenly you connect directly with a perception and land in the present moment.
In any case, the flash of perception is a ready made offer you can ignore or receive with appreciation. It comes before your self starts reflecting or conceptualizing. As Henri Cartier-Bresson says ” a photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take a photo”.
Neither is it just a matter of being there at the right time at the right place.