Photography & the Art of Seeing: Trigger happy in Barcelona

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I am only trying to teach you to see. Two men are walking through Clare Market. One of them comes out at the other end not a bit wiser than he went in. The other notices a bit of parsley hanging over the edge of a butter woman’s basket and carries away with him images of beauty, which in the course of his daily work he incorporates with it for many a day. – John Ruskin

When visiting any large city on vacation and if time permits, we try to take a quick guided bus tour of the city so that we narrow down the places we need to come back to, and in the process also gather the folklore about the main sights from the local guides.

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On one such fly-by tour in Barcelona, we were in the company of a couple from the San Francisco Bay Area. The woman was carrying a high-end Canon DSLR with a serious L series lens attached to it. Over the course of the day, we came to realize that the contraption was being used to snap pictures like a 5 year old with a smartphone. At every stop the woman would get down, and partly looking at the guide and the point of interest being spoken about, and partly glancing behind her back, she would lift the camera to shoulder height, not bother to even look through the viewfinder (or the LCD screen), and fire away on high-speed multi-shot mode while simultaneously rotating the camera around. She seemed to be the least concerned about the content – whether it was the tour group that made up most of those shots, or the floor or sky, or maybe she was lucky enough to capture a tilted portion of the point of interest in one of them.

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Bits are cheap – Flickr offers a terabyte of RAW storage online for free, and Google Photos goes unlimited with JPEG storage, so there is a growing trend to capture, document and share comprehensively at the cost of not being there at all.

Rather than using photography as a supplement to active, conscious seeing, they used it as an alternative, paying less attention to the world than they had done previously from a faith that photography automatically assured them possession of it. – Alain de Botton

A quick search on Amazon will bring up a plethora of books on photography and the art of seeing, and Freeman Patterson’s seminal book teaches every aspiring photographer that the essence of photography is to learn how to appreciate the world around it. You may never get better at it. But you will definitely acquire the knack to pause, observe, immerse in and appreciate the world around you.

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Posted in photography, spain, traveling.

3 Comments

  1. You are correct. All the pictures convey slowing down and appreciating the place you are in – that was primarily the theme.

    But for future readers – #1 is Mezquita in Cordoba; #2 is Barcelona, #3 is Budapest and #4 is again Barcelona.

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