Friday, March 27, 2015

Sensory Perceptions and Photography

by Dotti

As I walked out my front door the other morning to get the morning paper, 
I was greeted by a cacophony of birdsong.
It was beautiful!
As I listened, I realized that to experience the glories of spring 
was to experience sensory overload.

The same could be said of photography.


Obviously, the first sense that we use in photography is our sight. Makes sense since photography is a visual practice and a visual art. But there is so much more stimuli involved in our photography if we just pause to become more aware.


All of us, I’m sure have walked through the sand dunes toward the ocean and long before we can even see the water, our ears hear the sound of the waves as they race one another to the shore. Now we’re on alert as our eyes seek to follow the sounds we’ve just heard, telling us that the shimmering ocean waters await us and the camera we hold in our hands. Our pulse quickens, perhaps our steps quicken as well.


All of us have done some cooking and baking in our lifetimes and most, if not all of us, have at one time or another stopped to take photos of our food prep. But as we are preparing our treats, we surely smell the aromas coming from the fruit and veggies as we chop, or the cookies as they bake, or the wine before we take a sip.

There are so many other smells around us, too. Soon we’ll smell the sweet spring lilacs, the flower fragrances in the garden, the earth as we prepare the flower beds. Or the sea air as we approach the seaside. The list is endless.


Food preparation aside, how many of our other normal everyday activities are centered around eating? A lot! When the weather warms, I take my granddaughter to get ice cream or frozen yogurt at least once every week or two for an after school snack. Out comes the iPhone and I sneak a photo as we eat our treats.

Or perhaps on a rainy day photo shoot we lift our face to the raindrops that are falling on our heads and catch some of the drops in our mouths, tasting of the wetness of the rain. Yes, taste is part of the experience as well.


This may be seem to be the most elusive of all but I suspect that once we stop and think about it, we’ll realize what an integral part touch plays in our photography. At the most elemental level, we have to touch our cameras in order to take photos. But how often do our subjects involve touching? Have you ever taken a family photo where the family wasn’t touching and embracing one another? Of course not! 

And what about those beautiful flowers we all love to photograph? I don’t know about you, but every time I photograph a rose, I touch it as well, usually in the process of seeking to smell the fragrance. [See above.]

Where did all this thinking take me?

Glad you asked!  The more I thought about photography and the senses, the more I realized that if we would be more mindful of all our sensory perceptions as we went about our practice of photography, we would likely become more intentional and contemplative photographers, looking just a bit deeper into the process. And I believe as we perfect this part of our photography, we’ll inch ever closer to what really matters in our photography: identifying what we feel in our hearts and our souls and how to translate it through our photos. And we will ultimately find more joy in our endeavors.

So what are you waiting for? Go. Seek the joy. I'll be right behind you.


kelly said...

man dotti...such an awesome post! as i followed along i could practically hear the waves and smell the food. how to capture in a photo what i see with my mind's eye and feel with my heart is my ultimate goal...this post reminds me to use all five senses in the process! thank you dotti for some weekend inspiration! xoxo

terriporter said...

I think photography brings us so much more in touch with all of our senses than those who are not photographers. There are so many people walking around who don't see what is right in front of them, or appreciate all the wonderful smells, sounds and tastes there are to be enjoyed. I love this post, encouraging us to do just that, to not just make unintentional images but to involve all of our senses and convey what we are seeing, hearing, tasting, etc. to the viewer. It's an art but one well worth striving for.

heyjudephotography said...

I loved this post Dotti. I agree with Terri, that I do think most of us photographers learn to experience our senses more than others. Such beautiful photos to accompany.

Deanna said...

Senses are a major part of the photography process and I do firmly believe that we photographers have superior senses . We see things differently, we feel things deeply, we taste and smell things with a heightened sense. Love it!! And I think it is interesting that both you and Judy used photos from our Galveston gathering in the same week. There is definitely a sister-link connection!! (another sense)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dotti! You brought up a great topic! With my disabled grandson being born (blind and deaf) has made me really take notice of the beautiful sights and sounds of nature! Well, really all aspects of life. I wish I could bottle it up and pour it out into his beautiful heart! He craves touch in a way that we sometimes take for granted. I love the fact that you can capture so many beautiful moments of time with sight, sound, smell and touch. When I go back and look at my photos, the scented flowers and the sounds of birds come back into my memory and I sometimes get lost in them! When I see photos of my grandson, I feel his touch and hear his laugh and it reminds me how beautifully blessed I am! Your photos are beautiful....especially your granddaughter! Thanks for sharing!

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