The Walk to Work

28 Dec

Walking is better than cycling if you want to see the world and think.  The pace of walking fits with the speed of thought.  It takes me about 50 minutes to walk around the River Severn, through Longden Coleham, and along cycle paths (an old railway line) and finally across fields.  I love to do this in all seasons, and particularly during the dark mornings and evenings in November and December when there is a quiet atmosphere of anticipation of the coming festive season.

Things catch my eye and it is rare that I get to work with the result that I have had a good, methodical think through a particular problem or subject.  But it is great for letting the mind float free, alighting on objects, each sight distrupts the thought pattern but might just send my ideas in a new, revelatory direction.

During the early Summer, I planned to take photos of things that caught my eye and I began to ponder on how we see the world – our state of being.  Perception, conception, meaning and reality.  How do we interpret what we see, and what is reality.  Before I know it we could be into the depths of Wittgenstein.  There are numerous texts on the subject by artists and philosophers and scientists, so I am not saying anything wildly original here, but think about it.  What do you see? 

Our experience is not really like a continual film, but a series of snapshots, sometimes blurred.  We look, process, look, process, think, focus, think, look, process, refocus, think, look, process, look again, process, think… perception and conception.

I realised that the series of photos I took one day would almost certainly be different to the next and the next.  Snapshots would be influenced by mood, weather, thoughts, noises, smells, time of day, other people, wildlife, movement, recent and past memories and much more.  Our interpretation of a particular view is determined by our memory of past experience, and is largely an abstract construct before we actually consider what our eyes are taking in at that specific moment.  So even if by some miracle another person walked the route and took photos of exactly the same things, it couldn’t be for exactly the same reasons, and interpreted the same way.  And that’s before we even begin to consider the photographic image selection, framing, the capture itself taking account of light conditions, camera settings etc and the post-editing processes.  No two people could possibly see the same route however short, in the same way.

This calls for an experiment sometime – to get two, or preferably several more, people to walk a route, take photos, perhaps within 5 minutes of each other, then on different days, at different times, over a long period.  Then compare.

The decision to take a photo is influenced by so many factors, depending on the objective.  Sometimes it is such a fine line between stopping, considering, framing, releasing the shutter and continuing, or just saving the effort and leaving the image in mind only.  With digital cameras there is almost no effort, no waste, so the line is even finer.

So where am I going with this?  We cannot relate to the same thing in the same way, our individual life experiences are isolated and interconnected at the same time.  We’re heading into the fundamentals of photography and what it can reveal to us about the photographer.

On one morning in June, I set out to take photos of what my eyes alighted on – not everything, or I might never have arrived – but what I judged to be of a “certain” significance.  The camera battery gave up just short of my destination, and I took some 94 photos.  Inevitably there was an element of  selection/exclusion in what I shot.  I tried not to spend long with composition or thinking about the shot, and I used the camera zoom only where I considered that this represented my selective focusing on an object.  Similarly I only cropped an image in post production if this represented what I was looking at better.   I did very little manipulation of the image except to balance tones and colour. 

To avoid further selectivity, I have not discarded any of the images and so here is my walk to work on 17th June 2013.  Of course, I didn’t think much during the walk that day except about taking photos, so like with any scientific experiment, the intervention of conducting the experiment changes the conditions in which the experiment is conducted … but anyway:

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  1. Photographic investigations | Andrew Howe OCA Learning Log - July 14, 2014

    […] also began taking more pictures as I passed through on my walk to work over a period of time in different […]

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