I just read Lucretius “On the nature of things” and was interested — what stimulates your eyes, why, and how does it affect your visual perception, how does it affect how you make pictures, and ultimately — what does photography mean to you?
1. Why do we have eyes?
First of all, the purpose of human eyes is linked to survival and the lust for power.
We have human eyes to perceive the outer world and reality. We use our eyes to coordinate movement, to hunt, to procure food, and to avoid potential death.
Why as humans can we perceive depth and different colors?
We can perceive depth to see how far away our prey is. Or how far away the lion is— so we don’t get eaten to death.
Colors are probably linked to food. Bright red cherries are delicious food. The sight of red blood can be good (delicious lambs to eat) or dangerous (you see your friends bleeding to death, because they were attached by a neighboring tribe or from a wild animal).
Blue was probably useful because we perceive water — and we will die without water.
Yellow and black: dangerous colors, that look like bumble bees, or perhaps some poisonous snakes.
Generally the colors that attract us the most are white-yellow. It is the brightest of all colors. It is the color of warmth, the sun, of survival, of growth. Apparently according to Goethe and his theory of colors, “white” doesn’t really exist— it is just a very bright yellow color. The same goes with shadows, there is no “black” in nature— just very deep shades of blue in the shadows.
2. Now, the purpose of your eyes is to be a visual artist
Anyways, taking this to photography— originally sight-perception and our vision was linked to survival, and becoming more powerful by capturing more resources, more food, and expanding our territories.
Yet nowadays, we have hijacked our visual perception for aesthetic, artistic purposes.
For example, we now use our eyes to stimulate and excite us— with colorful clothes, fashion, fancy cars, aesthetically pleasing architecture and interior design, and we express our creativity (via vision) through photography (taking pictures), by drawing or painting (making pictures), or through sculpture.
Humans were not born with eyes in order to make art. The purpose of eyes were linked for visual perception, to survive and thrive in the world. But now, because we are beyond mere survival— we use our eyes and visual perception to THRIVE as visual artists.
3. Don’t waste your eye-power
I’m sad. It seems we are wasting our eye-power and visual perception.
Rather than use our eyes to take pictures, to wander, and to study colors, textures, art, and aesthetics— we are just looking at Netflix shows, looking at advertisements, or being distracted by blinking screens.
Now, you have the control and power to do with your eyes whatever you want.
You can control your eyes. You own your eyes. Ain’t nobody should ever try to force you to look at things you don’t like — this is why I hate advertising (and I love advertisement blockers). I hope in the future, we can have AR (augmented reality) in our phones or our glasses to block advertisements in real life.
Anyways, the question I want to pose to you is this:
Are you using your eyes, and power of vision— doing with it what you really want to do? Or are you letting your eyeballs be manipulated by distractions and shit you don’t want to be distracted by?
4. Protect your eyeballs, at all costs.
Let me be more specific and talk about my own life.
I hate “recommendations” or any algorithm- generated “recommendation engines.” While I love Amazon, I hate how good their recommendation algorithm is — I have stopped using Kindle because I can never finish a book anymore. When I am about to start reading a new book on Kindle, the “recommended books” shit distracts me. I cannot turn it off.
Same goes with YouTube — I hate the “recommended videos” column on the right side. When I want to just watch 1 video, I get distracted for the next 20 minutes.
Solution: install advertisement blockers on your browser whenever possible, use “content blockers” to block certain recommendations (use Adblock ultimate, and block certain elements) to give yourself a zen web experience.
Or better yet, don’t use “free” products or anything that is sponsored by advertisements. This is why I don’t read magazines —it is about 80% advertising and only 20% content —and nowadays you’re not sure what is an advertisement or the “content”.
5. Develop your visual acuity
Sorry I got off track.
As a photographer, your most valuable asset are your eyes.
To develop your “visual acuity”— Be very aware what you look at, and what you grant privilege to your eyeballs.
Your vision is your most valuable perceptive sense. AVOID looking at advertisements, distracting things or anything that doesn’t bring you aesthetic joy.
6. Study visual art to improve your own photography
Personally, I’ve been looking at a lot of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and have been inspired. I also love architecture and interior design— I try to study and analyze great design, and think about how I can use those design elements for me to make better photographs/pictures.
To me, all study of the visual world should be to improve your photography.
7. You are a visual artist
You are a photographer and visual artist. So… how can you use your leisure time, to study, strengthen your eyes, and strengthen your visual perception — like doing deadlifts for your eyes? You want more muscular eyes. You want new eyes, to see new things, and to see new pictures — new pictures you have NOT photographed yet.
Only study things which helps inspire you to MAKE MORE OF YOUR OWN PICTURES.
I love photo books, but for some people— looking at too much photos from other photographers can be discouraging, and dismotivating. It is kind of like sex— would you rather watch other people have sex, or have sex yourself?
As a photographer, do you prefer looking at the pictures of other photographers, or do you prefer making your own pictures?
I would prefer to make my own pictures.
8. Develop your own visual acuity, and strengthen your power as a photographer
Some practical advice:
- Make more pictures: Shoot what inspires you. Shoot what you find aesthetically sublime. The more productive and prolific you are as a photographer, the better.
- Look at your own pictures and ask yourself, “Do I like looking at my own pictures?” You know if your picture is good by the following rule: There are certain pictures that the more you look at them, the more you despise looking at them. But there are certain pictures that the more you look at them, the more you like looking at them. Those are the good pictures.
- Make pictures that bring you joy. Be your own spectator, and seek your own applause.