The Camera Teaches us How to See Without a Camera

An old boat in the grounds of the Botanical Gardens in Kolkata, India

"The camera teaches us how to see without a camera."

Dorothea Lange

American photographer, Dorothea Lange, is a giant in the history of photography. Best known for her famous image titled 'Migrant Mother' made during the time of the Farm Security Act (FSA) in 1936.

Due to limited opportunities and a radically different social/economic structure few women at that time were able to work in creative fields like photography. To have produced such a large body of work, including a number of absolute classics, is an incredible achievement.

The history of photography owes much to the work of Dorothea Lange and other FSA photographers such as Walker Evans.

So, what's the relevance of her quote? To me it means that the camera, as a tool, helps us see much of the beauty of our world in a way that we might otherwise not be able to. The world around us is huge. The camera helps us slice that world up into smaller pieces and as moments in time, usually within a fraction of a second. Our choice of lens, camera format, framing, etc help determine what slice we deal with.

By taking a creative approach to our photography we learn how to perceive and experience these moments, both with and without the camera. So a walk in the park or down a city street becomes an experience other than just capturing an image which, from my way of thinking, is a pretty ordinary term.

Photographers, as artists, are visual people. But to live the life of a photographic artist it's necessary to practice the discipline by making pictures, both with the camera and on the desktop.

Photography helps us see and feel the world as it unfolds around us and, by doing so, better appreciate it. The act of photography can help connect us with the world around us and with that certain inner beauty between the known and the unknown. Once in this zone the photographer no longer needs a camera to make this connection. It's my view that, like meditation and religious practice, the camera is a tool to get us into the zone and to help share some of that experience with others.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru