Thoughts on Learning to See- #1

Author John Jerome (1932-2002) wrote a book titled Stone Work, which I found thought-provoking and inspiring. The book follows Jerome as he sets about building a stone wall on his New England property, a creative process that was as rewarding and frustrating as any other. Here is a quote that speaks to me as a photographer: “I’ve never learned how to focus my attention, just as I never learned to study in school, only to read the books—the stories—that pulled my attention out of me. Actively focusing attention, coming up with enough mental energy to keep attention focused on something, was entirely too much effort. I didn’t know how to do it. I still don’t.  I want to be able to step back and let the sheer beauty of this place overwhelm me, carry me passively along, but clearly that’s all wrong, a sure way to tune out: what I have to do to see into the woods is dig into the details (as Mies van der Rohe pointed out long ago—quoting, I’m sure, someone else). To focus on detail I take notes, attempting to write down the riches of the woods, trying to convince myself that I have gotten those riches. But I haven’t, I never have. I don’t know enough, don’t see enough, don’t know how to see. Don’t know what I’ve seen, what was going on, until I get back and start writing about it, telling myself the story: debriefing myself on the experience. Every time that I see a little bit more, it tells me there are worlds and worlds to see, deeper yet.  The pleasure I get when I see a little tells me that all pleasure, all happiness, lies in seeing more. Whenever I manage to see some tiny bit, I always say to myself again, yes, that’s the way I wish I lived: seeing these things.” (Jerome 195-196)