I always liked the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Not because it gives us a license to be a critic of other people’s art or creative expressions — it definitely does not. Rather, I like the phrase because it reminds us that everything we behold is essentially, or at least potentially, beautiful.
“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing (published in the UK, 1972)
“Looking” and “seeing” are synonyms and are interchangeable terms used to describe our perception by the eye. But when it comes to art, the two words could not be more different.
To look at something is to glance at it and perhaps notice a few details here and there. In other words, looking at something is superficial. But, on the other hand, ”seeing” a work of art, as John Berger implies, means not just observing it, but also understanding it, going beyond the surface and delving into a world unknown to the “looking” eye.
As the title of his book denotes, John Berger has mastered this art of seeing beauty and art, and he goes to great lengths to describe not only how seeing has evolved throughout the years, but also the way in which certain subjects are seen in the art world.
This week I photographed things that I thought were simply beautiful: the silhouette of a Godwit on the beach at sunset, flowers (Rudbeckia) at the grocery store, and a street sheet seller named Roosevelt with a delightful smile and twinkle in his eye. For me these have become my recorded “moments of seeing.”
May you look and see, but, above all, may you really see the beauty that is held in the ordinary things and activities of your daily routine this week. It is a real blessing!
“Whenever the intensity of looking reaches a certain degree, one becomes aware of an equally intense energy coming towards one through the appearance of whatever it is one is scrutinizing.”
― John Berger