Lately I have been pondering why we see what we see. When I was in college, I went on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. We would start out on a lake in the morning in our canoes, and the leader would say, "The portage we are headed for is over there to the right at the end of the lake." I would look and look and couldn't image that there was any way we could get through the woods to the next lake in the area to which he was pointing. But when we got to the shore, we would see a sign for the portage. After this happened several times, I asked him how he did it. He said something like, "Well there are maps and the compass which help, but after you do it for a while, you begin to notice the little differences--a very slight break in the trees, a certain way the shore looks and so on. You learn how to see the portages."
We learn to see because of what we do, because of our culture, because of needs we have. Sometimes we see simply because we expect things to be a certain way. And sometimes we don't see things because we are not expecting them.
I have learned the truth of the oft cited Dorothea Lange quote, "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." Using a camera has taught me to see many different things and in many more ways since I began making images. I see light and shadows more; I see colors and their interplay differently. I notice more. And yet there are things I still miss. How can I--and perhaps you--be open to seeing more and more deeply?
So what did I see when I took this image? At the monthly flea market, I saw light switch plates and plates that go around electrical outlets stacked together. I was drawn to the unusual curly tops and raised shapes. Later I made an image of an artificial sparkly gold feathery leaf. In the computer after I got home, I was layering various images together to see how they looked. I liked the way the feathery leaf looked on top of the switch plate pile perhaps giving it a patina of age. What do you see in it?