In her poem Sacred Emily, Gertrude Stein wrote: "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose," implying that things are what they are. But sometimes a rose it's not just a rose. This is especially true in photography, where a photograph of a rose and the actual rose are two very distinct things. Not only because one is bound to perish and the other one is immortal, but because only one of them is shown to us through the eyes of another person.
When we look at the world around us our brain is interpreting everything that we see based on what we know and our own experiences from the past. But, when we look at a photograph we are looking only at what the person who took the photograph wants us to see. It doesn't matter if the person who takes the photo is a selfies snapper or an established artist, the reality of the subject is distorted by the message that is being conveyed. Quoting photographer Gary Winogrand: "photography is not about the thing photographed. It's about how that thing looks photographed."
Appreciating photography is like receiving an invitation to experience the world walking in someone else's shoes. The photographer is basically telling you: "here, take my eyes and see through them and understand why I chose this subject in this light at this location to visually explain this story." And to me that creates a deep connection between the photographer and whomever is looking at their photos.
So the next time that you are looking at a photo, try to ask yourself: "what am I really looking at? what am I being told?". You might end up discovering what is hiding beyond the rose.
Photo of people looking at my photos exhibited at the AOP Awards 2015 ceremony taken by Shaun Bayliss.
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