What You See v. What You Want to See

With photography, some seek to represent what our world truly looks like while others strive to express how they see the world. This fascinates me.

Camera reviews, “objective” sensor and lens evaluations, critical assessments of images . . . so much of the discourse surrounding the creative bliss that is photography revolves around the unquestioned assumption that cameras must capture and depict things as they appear to the human eye. And for a noble endeavor such as journalism, I largely acquiesce to that perspective.

But what about the noblest endeavor, that of the artist?

On the left is an image of a beach at sunset; the camera captured the setting exactly as it appeared. The subjects are in focus, the colors are accurate, and the image is sharp corner to corner–technical excellence. And yet . . . I feel nothing, and this is largely a forgettable image.

On the right is an image of that same beach at sunset; the camera didn’t capture the setting exactly as it appeared. The subjects are partially out of focus, the colors lean quite warm, and the image most-assuredly is not sharp corner to corner–technical poppycock. And yet . . . it is the image on the right that I keep returning to, over and over again; it inspires me, it reminds me of that day, of the feelings associated with being there. I think this image is so important to me because it shows what I want to see, not necessarily what I did see.

We are so busy and expected to do so much, so it is understandable that we begin to lose interest in the ordinary everyday elements of our world. But, I think it is the job of an artist to remind others just how remarkable those ordinary everyday elements truly are!

When it comes to artistic expression, which side of the spectrum do you fall down on: What You See v. What You Want to See?

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