What’s Your Point of View?

What a year we’ve had so far in our Scholars photography class! We’ve had memorable, warm late-summer days, a brisk and brilliant autumn, fresh fallen snow walked upon only by the animals of the night and dripping icicles, and many windy winter days that have made us work around all that winter can throw at us.  We’ve watched the seasons change right before our very cameras.  All of the students have become more visually aware of their surroundings, they’re handling their cameras with confidence and curiosity, and frequently surprise me with the level of detail they notice in things even without a camera in their hands.

We’ve had assignments where we’ve looked specifically for texture, color, shape and patterns.  We’ve practiced shooting close-ups, and even did an exercise in Photoshop to go along with related art projects learning about Pablo Picasso and cubism.

But I think our current assignment is our most important one yet.  It is “Point of View”, a concept we’ll be working with quite a bit.  It’s important, of course, as a photographic technique, and I hope to help our students learn to use it in all their photographs simply as a matter of habit.

But it’s even more important to help them recognize how “point of view” affects their daily lives.

Just as in photography, when we carefully choose a specific point of view that includes an element because it enhances the picture, or we exclude something because it distracts from the rest of the image, we also, mostly without even knowing it, apply our own personal “point of view” to everything we do.  We exclude others’ points of view because they don’t match ours exactly, or we selectively include someone’s point of view because it’s convenient or complimentary to us.  We lose sight of the fact that it’s simply a point of view, a single way of looking at something.

We get into disagreements with our spouse or family members, mostly because we’re so caught up in our one specific point of view, excluding not only important relevant facts that might help us understand more, but perhaps the other person’s entire viewpoint!

But we could choose a wider-angle way of looking at things.  One which allows us to see more, to consider more possibilities, to actually recognize the reasons for someone else’s point of view, and to respond accordingly.

In a previous job two co-workers came into my office at different times in the same morning.  One came in complaining about the fact that she had so much work to do, and how the volume of work stressed her out so much that she was considering resigning.  I sat there with a healthy dose of self-doubt, worrying that I was giving her too big a work load.  The second came in a short while later just to tell me how much she loved working in an environment in which she had so much work to do.  She said it made her feel needed, that she felt she was contributing to the good of the company, and was so grateful to be in a job where she could stay active, and not wonder whether she’d have a job next week.

Two dramatically different points of view from the same set of circumstances.  I ended up thanking her for helping me to see how someone’s point of view can affect us all, for better or for worse.

So stay tuned.  I hope you’ll see the fruits of our photographic efforts pursuing our “point of view” exercise.  I also hope that if you get to meet any of our Scholars, you’ll sense the inclusive, cooperative and curious point of view inherent in them all.written by Jay Langlois, Scholars Together Instructor and Photographer

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