In both photography in particular and life in general, it is tempting to become satisfied with a superficial understanding of a subject, issue, controversy or sight. We encounter something briefly, consider its message rapidly, and move on to other experiences, deludedly content that we have mastered its meaning or captured the scene in the best possible way.
Photographers commit this error all the time. We are attracted to a scenic vista, a photogenic person, or a beautiful abstracted pattern and we capture the image before us with varying degrees of technical skill. Sometimes, that’s all we can do. But often, if we slow down, reflect on what is before us, and consider seriously what the scene symbolizes and seeks to communicate, we can gain new insights and on occasion even some unexpected wisdom, and then hopefully take a photograph that provides a novel perspective, a more pure form of beauty, or a greater depth of meaning.
We need to take a second look.
Sometimes, the second look may take place after some time has elapsed. We return to a place we have visited and improve on the first photographic effort. For example, these two images of the well known woman in a wet suit in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, are separated by several years. Both images are popular on my Flickr site, but I feel the second one is purer and more beautiful.
When we return to a location repeatedly, we can focus on compelling images that may not be revealed during an initial visit. Hidden beauty is revealed. It may just be that the ambient light is different, or something in the setting has changed, or the angle chosen suggests a new perspective.
In my book on Christian spirituality, Endless Possibilities, spiritual journeys are portrayed as spirals, and I enjoy capturing images of spirals wherever I travel. The first image is from a 2015 visit to Amsterdam, and it symbolizes the totality of an individual’s journey. Returning to Amsterdam in September 2016, I found this second wrought iron spiral. The reflections cast one’s individual journey into a more complex set of relationships. The reflected spirals may suggest a person’s related journeys, past or present. Or, they may represent the truth that our individual journeys are lived out within the context of the journeys of others.
The discipline of second looks should be a part of our photographic technique. It may also benefit our spiritual and intellectual lives as well. We should never be content to see something once, or to reflect upon any subject in a lazy and superficial manner. There is always something novel to see, even in a familiar site. And there is always something new we can learn, if we are open to growth and take the time to reconsider what we think we already know.