thinking with pictures

Reading the land, reading the people

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“It is only with the heart that one can truly see, for what is essential is invisible to the eye.” -Fox to the Little Prince, 1943, Antoine St. Exupery

Early morning, springtime – flag at local cafe in downtown St. Johns, Michigan USA

It can be eye-opening to accompany an outdoors expert and find out how the person reads the visible landscape (signs of life, tracks, plants now in bloom, fruits soon to attract certain creatures, and so on), as well as the invisible landscape (what recently took place, or soon will do so). Possibly a shaman would also read another layer of invisibility on the landscape, one filled with meanings, dangers, and opportunities. And a person attuned to historical events and contexts could declare certain places to be a “lieu de memoire” (memory place – national, local, or personal).

By training one can learn to see better. By practicing once can establish a discipline of seeing well. One can then go forward with renewed vision for what one encounters and regards to be significant, including the ability to recognize a composition to capture with lens and camera.

Gaining visual power to sense, distinguish (resolving power; granularity of detail), and to increase the depth of vision (from near, middle, to background), and the angle of view (degrees of width and height within one’s mind) in one arena also may translate to habits of mind, heart, and voice for the other arenas, too. In other words, a person well able to read a landscape across time, almost like a crime scene filled with clues but now extending many seasons or even generations of engagement from the livelihood activities or recreational purposes on the terrain, perhaps the same person will also be adept at learning to read people’s life trajectory or even their state of preoccupation at the moment of observation. After all seeing what presents itself is much more than processing patterns and relationships on one’s retina. It is the habit of interpreting the significance of what is present or what is absent, and connecting the new visual information to one’s store of experiences. Only with the heart can one see was is essential about a person, place, or thing. Developing one’s powers of observation, knowledge base, and experiential pool of interactions with people and places is what separates sensory sight from big or deep vision.


Author: gpwitteveen

Better Outreach is my aim. See to know more.

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