Marcel Proust, the famous French novelist, critic and essayist born in the nineteenth century said, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.’ There are many things in one’s local area or places one visits frequently which one probably hasn’t ever noticed.
You can go to the same place and see and feel very little at all if you aren’t tuned in. Someone may ask you for information about that location and you will have to admit you don’t know because you have never really looked or taken notice. Perhaps you have been there dozens of times or walked down that street literally hundreds of times on your way to work with your mind full of other concerns. You know you will pass this way again so there doesn’t seem to be any need to take notice. However, if you were a visitor from out of town on vacation it is likely you would really look around, listen and take note of the smell of freshly brewed coffee and toasted cheese sandwiches. You would take notice because you were relaxed and on holidays and because you might never come back again.
If you are taking note of your surroundings you can go to the same place repeatedly and see something new, feel something different each time. Different weather will give a different perspective. Your mood will make you see things differently. Things that you have read or information gained from others can make you look at the location differently and actually take note of the details of your surroundings.
North Terrace Adelaide on a foggy morning
One Saturday I was in the CBD about 8.30 am on a foggy winter day. The tram I wanted to catch was coming so I only had time to take 4 photos but I am so glad I got those shots. It isn’t usually so foggy in Adelaide and the photos almost look like they were taken in black and white. It is only a couple of lights that suggest they are actually in colour. I saw the familiar in a very different way because of the unusual weather. I had new eyes.
I lived in a regional city for eighteen years and became very used to my surroundings. About six months after moving, I went back to catch up with friends. On my trip I noticed things I hadn’t seen when I lived there. Perhaps it was because I was in ‘holiday mode’ rather than going about my daily routine. Maybe it was because the scenery there is quite different from my current hometown.
After reading about the historical significance of certain buildings or a particular town I find I take more notice of details than previously. When I am on the look out for things to photograph I notice statues, signs, sculptures, paintings on walls and things I have never seen before even though I am familiar with the area. I am looking, really looking, with ‘new eyes’.
My mood has an effect on how I perceive my environment. I am more likely to notice details when I am in a good mood. When I am caught up in negative thoughts I am unlikely to take in much of what is around me. If I do notice anything it will probably be the rubbish on the footpath.
One day try pretending you are a tourist in your home town. Walk around and see what you notice when you look with ‘new eyes’. What is worth photographing in your local area? Take note of the sounds and smells as well. Try going for a walk in different types of weather and take note of the difference the weather makes. Go on a voyage of discovery without leaving town.