The Art of Observation

Somehow the ray of light that always falls on the same place everyday starts to appear out of place, and it’s like I’m starting to see the things I never paid attention to. I stay a little longer, observe a little more and as the seconds pass by, I start to see, I start to frame and I suddenly realise what I have not seen.

Through observation, we don’t just see, we think and give meaning to each element and we start to question. The potential that one possesses comes through their observation. How people see and observe is very unique to each one of them. A shadow can create different meanings and all of our experiences and personality shape what we see and what meaning we give to it. Over time, observation makes us a better storyteller. The focus on details helps create a narrative that can be visually compelling. So first as a photographer, start to observe. Just spend a few minutes before you click the shutter to observe everything in the frame. 

As I take portraits of loved ones, I observe the wrinkles and texture on their face. I observe the cracks on the wall and see the passing of time. I observe what I see. I remember noticing a beautiful shadow on my balcony floor; it seemed unusual, why hadn’t I seen it before? I’ve been living in my current house for 5 years now. I kept looking at the shadow and wondered how many beautiful things I have missed by not observing.   

Observation requires practice. We need to acknowledge that we haven’t seen everything. A way to start practicing observation can be by selecting a spot in your house or photographing portraits. Spend a second just observing what is in front of you. Take the elements in and frame. Keep doing this for every frame you photograph. Each time you click the photograph, you will discover new elements and meaning. This will help you get a better understanding of what you’re photographing. 

When I began photography, I was excited to photograph all the beautiful things around me. A colourful flower in the park or a picturesque landscape. I was always looking at things I was conditioned to see as beautiful. But over the years, as I have exposed myself to other works and experiences, I’ve realised I need to look beyond the notion of beauty. I started observing things I normally ignored and as I started to immerse myself in my surroundings I started to see beauty and life in the simplest things. A cracked up wall and half-petalled flower began to embody stories of hope, growth and endings. This has changed the way I view things. Everything I see holds a story of its own and I’m just a passerby hoping to capture things in all of their glory. 

We see all day but only a few observe.