The following is an excerpt from Vision 365: Mastering the Everyday Practice of Seeing by Henry Fernando, a beautiful 772-page reminder that it's the practice of photography that trains your eye to see not only the spectacular and obvious, but the small, ordinary, and everyday things in new ways. Through 365 days of simple visual exercises, Henry teaches you to recognize daily opportunities in your surroundings so that you can make the photographs that better express who you are and how you see your world.
To open your eyes and really see, you have to look at the world around you as it is. That means that you look at things without any judgment, without like or dislike, or preconceived ideas.
"We begin as children seeing the world as a mystery. The mind absorbs and reflects the experiences of youth as a stainless mirror, and continually adds them to the knowledge bank of neurons. These stored memories combine and create another world, the conceptual world, where ideas and unlikely combinations of invisible elements stir constantly in the alembic of the mind. Somewhere along the road to adulthood, the mind accepts this other conceptual world as the real one." – George DeWolfe
Day 2: Photograph a pet.
Indeed, with our childhood experiences, what our parents and teachers taught us, and the constant bombardment of information from television and the internet, it can sometimes be hard to sift through all preconceptions and biases to figure out what is real. Our mind has a tendency to fill in details that are not there and disregard things that are there, based on our (unconscious) expectations. These are useful shortcuts that our mind has devised to help us function efficiently in everyday situations. We would never get anything done if we allowed ourselves to take in and process all the information our senses are able to perceive.
Day 21: Photograph a silhouette.
Day 65: Photograph texture.
As photographers, however, these shortcuts keep us from seeing and noticing what is in front of us. We must now learn to disengage this process and allow our mind to be aware of more raw visual information.
"In this conceptual world we are very quick to stick ‘labels’ on just about everything, and once we label it, the label sticks forever. By these labels we recognize everything but no longer SEE anything. It is like knowing the labels of good wines but we don't taste the wine." – Frederick Franck
Day 75: Photograph a subject with dominant negative space.
Day 178: Photograph light and shadow.
To be able to really see, it’s necessary to shed this conceptual way of seeing and get back to seeing what is really there. Throw away your conscious or unconscious biases and it will open your eyes to this phenomenal world that we live in.
"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin
Day 144: Photograph a spiral shape.
Seeing things as they are offers endless possibilities for finding subjects to photograph. Look at that old chair you dislike and start seeing the shape and form of the armrest, the worn out patterns of the fabric, and the smooth texture of the wood. Do not see the mess in your kitchen; instead, see the light coming in from the window that forms a shadow on your cabinet door. See the colourful patterns on your plate and even the placement of your utensils on the table.
Day 341: Get close to a subject.
Get a copy of Vision 365: Mastering the Everyday Practice of Seeing and expand your vision and your craft, one day at a time.
Henry Fernando has studied Zen, Miksang, and Tao contemplative photography subsequent to his training in biochemistry and as an IT manager. Based in Ottawa, Canada, Henry believes that travel is a tool for self-discovery, and that a sense of adventure opens doors to culture that do not revolve around fast food and social media. By combining his passions for travel + photography, Henry has experienced the rich, vivid colour and texture of the world.