Black and white are the colors of original photographs. No color aside from the two was used to develop a picture. The viewer was left to imagine what detail would be in the photos if they were in color. It was mystery and all had to take part in a shot of black and white. On the other hand, paintings were full of color. Some were bright and eye catching like most Monet’s, and others were a bit darker and more mysterious like Caravaggio’s. Photos and paintings have something in common: both are able to capture a moment in time and tell a story in detail through a still medium and be effective at the same time as being breathtaking. I believe seeing is the ability to make a connection with a moment; moments connect with nature, words, and emotion in the natural world.
Lush flowers sparkling with dew, green grass flanking the glimmering stream that runs through a wide open meadow, and a bridge that sits perfectly in the middle to guide an onlooker just passing through. These moments, to me, are forever frozen in time when they are painted. I can admire their beauty over and over again, and it will never change. The flowers will always stay a rosy pink and the grass will always have the movement of the wind. The painting is permanent and if progression in the scene wants to be shown, it will take time to reconstruct the scene. We learn to appreciate art for the duration of its existence, which is a very long time. Photographs create a different scene. I think they exist to document time, unlike paintings, which only capture one specific moment. In a way, I believe photos defy the true meaning of art. I completely agree with a quote from Susan Sontag’s “Seeing,” which defines photograph as mysterious and more of a confusion to the real world, “Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all the objects that make up, and thicken, the environment we recognize as modern” (Sontag). I want to appreciate the moment, not the whole extensive life of one person or space. I don’t want to see the progression of a lush meadow wither away through times of pollution and destruction. I want to appreciate a moment for the good that it was intended on portraying, and not the ugly and mess it is to become. Some may think of this as ignorance, but I see it as living in the moment. Stop worrying about what is going to happen later in life, and just appreciate the now. Appreciate the youthfulness of life now, and worry about the wrinkles and lines later. Time in nature is irrelevant because there is always something new to look at, no matter how old or young it may be.
Making connections with words is much easier than with pictures, I think. With pictures you have to dwell on what the artist meant by showing us this particular scene, and how it connects to the overall message of the work. Words are easier. They are words on a page and their meaning is usually pretty straightforward. Formal essays are usually to the point and narratives are there to tell a story. Analyses are informational and give the reader insight to a certain topic. My favorite are poems: not only do they allow one to arrange words in a certain way, but also hide meanings in the words that are bluntly written on a page. I enjoy the way Annie Dillard describes how she sees, “When I see this way I analyze and pry” (Dillard). When I see words on a page, I “analyze and pry” as well. Poems are full of little innuendos that may or may not connect back to the main topic of the poem. One poem I have always appreciated is “Seeing for a Moment” by Denise Levertov:
I thought I was growing wings—
it was a cocoon
I thought, now is the time to step
into the fire—
it was deep water.
Eschatology is a word I learned
as a child: the study of Last Things;
facing my mirror—no longer young,
the news—always of death,
the dogs—rising from sleep and clamoring
and howling, howling,
I see for a moment
that’s not it: it is
the First Things.
Word after word
floats through the glass.
This is the prime example of art being expressed in words. Poems have a way of putting words and art all in one act. The way words are arranged on a page, what words are chosen to go after one another, the mere title of the work all tie into how the reader connects with the poem as a whole. In this poem, the first line captures me and puts me in that cocoon and then from there I am experiencing what the author is writing about in the rest of the work. Art is meant to capture the eye and make the viewer apart of the message it is trying to convey. Seeing this way is my ideal and quite unique. Words and art are almost never connected, but now it is clearer than ever that they really go hand in hand.
Emotion has been in art and the way we see since the beginning of time. It has been expressed in early hieroglyphics, like “Hall of the Bull” in France; in early Egyptian art like King Tutankhamen’s death mask; early Christian art with the endless images of the Virgin and Child; and in more modern day pieces like the “Picture of Dorian Gray.” All of these pieces are full of emotion and affect the way viewers see these works. Some you can connect with and others have no relation to the modern world today. Emotion influences the way I see many things. Another way emotion effects me is by being one emotion at the beginning but then changing my view and having a whole different emotion to end with. The “Picture of Dorian Gray” had this effect on me. At first I was repulsed by its initial image. It was very gory, dark, and down right scary. It is a very volatile image and brings a lot of mixed emotions. After a minute of really looking at it, I became intrigued and a bit curious. I know the story of Dorian Gray and part of me began to feel sorry for him. Selling your soul to the devil is one thing, but the price of the time you have to pay is a whole different mindset to the idea of being eternally beautiful. In the end, I felt sorry for him and it made sense why he killed himself because looking at yourself turn greedy and deformed would make anyone go mad.
As much as I would love to sit and admire a lush green meadow or read a long and thoughtful poem, I can only do so for a short period of time. I have been told I am inside my own head a bit too much and if I see things for something way different than what they are intended for, I will go mad. If I sat and thought about the way I see things for any longer than this, I would start to question if I am even seeing at all, and all of the fun I am missing if I were to simply just look.