Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ways of Seeing

John Berger, the art theorist, has referred to photography is a” way of seeing.” “The photographers way of seeing is reflected in his [or her] choice of subject.”[1] Berger adds “our perception or appreciation of an image depends also upon our own way of seeing.”[2] Photography, literally means “light writing” or perhaps more accurately “light drawing.”[3] Photographers essential work is with light, angles, focus, and distance to bring about a convincing composition to include what they feel should, and should not, be in the frame. Each photograph that is taken is just one of an infinite number of angles and f-stops centering on careful and creative compositions balanced by the skill of managing the mechanism. A photographer cultivates a keen vision of the world as seen through the lens of the camera.

Margaret Miles, in her Image As Insight, reminds us that religion too has often been described as a “way of seeing”[4] not just with actual eyesight, but with insight. A vision that peers beyond the common surface and into the depths of existence. This movement from eyesight to insight “implies perceiving a quality of the sensible word, a numinosity, a ‘certain slant of light,’ in which other human beings, the natural world, and objects appear in their full beauty, transformed.”[5]

Both photography and religion have been described as “ways of seeing.” For Peter Berger, photography is concerned with the creative compositions of light and matter, texture and shadow, angles and f-stops. Yet for Margaret Miles, religion uses the same eyesight as insight into the Light beyond, behind, or within the matter itself.

Perhaps there is a similar thread of awareness between the photographer and the religious person…always looking for beauty.

[1] Berger, 10.
[2] Berger, 10.
[3] Preble, 153.
[4] Miles, 2.
[5] Miles, 2.