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Take a different look at things

I did not become many of the things I am until later on in my life. And I’m still heartily invested in my “becoming.” It takes a long time to “grow up” in just about every sense of the term. There’s physical maturation, which we have little control over. And then there’s the maturation of our social skills, which we have a much bigger say so in. To me, this links directly to how we choose to perceive the people we interact with and how we choose to perceive the world we live in. Perspective is a very big deal because where we stand affects how we see things. It doesn’t matter whether these are people, places  or ideas. Further, it’s all real enough because it’s for certain that if you change where you stand or “your stand” things will no longer look the same and your new view is your new reality. However, if you re-adopt your previous position, your regression in viewing will present that previous viewpoint as your reality.

For me, it’s important to be able to shift perspectives so I can see how things look from various viewpoints. It’s very much akin to “putting on someone else’s shoes”, the suggestion being that when in their shoes, you will experience their reality. How true this is. There’s no rule that demands you maintain a viewpoint after you’ve experienced it, but often folks expect this of you. You know, they want you to keep seeing things their way, join their club. And you might well do just that. Or, you might move back to a previous perspective you liked more, after applying due diligence to theirs. For sure you are now a broader and more worldly person having made yourself available to a different outlook. However, if people important to you do not follow you into the realm of your new perspective, you will likely see them quickly fade from the rear view mirror of your social life. Remember that old adage, “Birds of a feather…?” No worries, new confederates with your same perspective will enter right away.

“I wish you could see things my way.” There’s a sentence concerning perspective. What does it mean? What is “seeing things?” What do you think when a person tells you this? I think they are telling me exactly what their words convey. My viewpoint is keeping me from “seeing things their way.” Now, I might claim that I can “see things their way” but that could be an outright lie. If they are lying on the ground under a car looking out ten feet to my right and I am standing by the store the car is parked next to, I assure you our perspectives are different. The things we see are not the same and if we share common objects, people or ideas in our different fields of vision, they do not appear the same to us. All I need do is to join them under the car to be able to “get” their perspective or they can join me at my post to “get” mine. But if neither of us changes our stance, we can never fully comprehend or really view what the other person sees.

Enter a very cool personal teacher of mine. Let me introduce you to Lens Perspective. When I was conducting my Cuenca City sponsored photography workshop for ten local talented photographers, we split our time between field work and classroom instruction. I spent a lot of time with my mentorees discussing lens perspective and it’s use in helping the photograph to tell its intended story. Lens perspective works great in exemplifying my comments concerning personal perspective. For me, they are virtually parallel and so I’ve written about them in that manner. My mentorees and I were visiting one morning during field work at Turi where a small and beautiful church is located. A couple of them asked me how I would make a quick and simple composition that would be a little different, a little fresher. They wanted me to show them the church from a different viewpoint, a different angle. They called me out to give them a lesson in lens perspective.

Frankly, it couldn’t have been easier. I don’t think they understood that they had handed me my challenge on a silver platter. Most photography of architecture is composed to compliment the architectural design giving visual credit to the architect for his vision. Consequently, front on compositions help keep the buildings lines straight and prevent a sense of “building lean” showing the structure as the architect intended. Ahh, but what a boring interpretation of a building…a boring perspective shall we say? For me, I’m always going to be avoiding boring perspectives.

I walked up very close to the left front side of the church. I lifted my camera and using the sky as a framing element, I created interesting geometries with the edges of the structure. The use of this photographic technique is successful for interpretation because the angles of the architectural elements are complimentary including the offset angle of the bell tower. Circumstance can sometimes raise its head and lend a hand in your selecting the proper perspective if you make yourself mentally available to it.

I liked my new interpretation. So, with a single click, I sent 32 megs of data racing to my memory card. After I executed my shot, I just hung out where I had ended up…since I was enjoying my new perspective. My mentorees focused their attention on my actions. They thought they were receiving a photography lesson and they were. But there was another lesson also at hand. I motioned for them to come on over and check out my approach. They gladly obliged, eager to experience something new. A smile formed on my lips. I knew that what I was accomplishing in the then and there went far past photography and artistic compositions. I was teaching people how to experience, and use, different perspectives. All they ever had to do was shift their position to take a different look at things. It’s really just that easy.