“…you’re probably wondering why I’ve called you all here…”
A few ruminations on how I conduct myself.
BY MICHAEL PERKINS
AT DISMAYINGLY RANDOM INTERVALS OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS OF THE NORMAL EYE, I’ve tried to occasionally stop to thank those of you who’ve joined our ranks since, well, since the last time I did this. I always mean to be more fastidious about observing exact anniversaries or sending out formal notes of appreciation, but, somehow, I am always me, and me isn’t very reliable in that respect. Please excuse my lack of breeding and let me say, again, how very much I value your enthusiasm, your loyalty, and your feedback. Part of these periodic notes is also, out of necessity, a re-statement of what we do, or don’t, do here.
The Normal Eye is not a tech guide. There are many, many places to find the requisite “how-to” tutorials for any kind of physical technique you’re pursuing, and I trust you to be well able to teach yourself the step-by-step mastery of how your camera works, where to buy what toy, or how to make a given image. Here, we concentrate on the things that I deem far more essential than gear…including intention, vision, and the training of your eye to do your heart’s bidding. To look outward in creating in image, you have to be able to look inward as well, to know where you fit into the world you inhabit, and to export that inner knowledge outside of yourself, into your hands and the camera they operate. Everything else in photography is mechanics, and, while you may expertly operate a machine, you are not one yourself. The picture must happen inside you before it gets anywhere near the camera.
This platform began after I had spent an entire year working solely with a 50mm prime lens, shooting everything with that single optic, regardless of subject or conditions. It was an exercise is making myself able to produce pictures no matter where I found myself, disconnecting from the idea that it was great cameras that made great pictures, and forcing myself to be a better growth medium for photographs. I loved the idea that 50mm primes were once called “normal” lenses for their close resemblance to the way humans actually see, and I began to refer to my desired destination as the development of a more natural, or “normal” way of seeing….free of biases, suppositions, bad habits, or narrow thinking.
For me, achieving a “normal” eye meant one unclouded by my own shortcomings, an eye working at peak perceptual and instinctual capacity. Thus The Normal Eye became a way for you and I to explore what it took to purify and clarify that eye, a journey, as Ansel Adams described, from taking a picture to making one, the trip from passively snapping to purposefully planning. Thanks to you, it continues to be a great trip, one based on the adventure over the destination. Thank you.