“When did we stop seeing with our eyes?”
This is a quote from Lisa Unger’s murder mystery Under My Skin. “It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband Jack was brutally murdered during his morning run.” The story takes us through her journey to find out what really happened to her husband and to her. She’s a photographer who prefers to view the world through the lens of a camera.
In a number of places she explains why that is. She has forgotten some of the things that happened to her. To remember she sifts through photos. If she can capture it on film or in a camera memory, then it’s real. “If I can capture the image on my phone, then it’s real.”
With a camera in front of her face, she can blend into a scene and not be noticed. She can watch people, observe their faces and feelings, and actually see more than if she were looking at them face to face. “People are more knowable when they think they’re unobserved.” Rather than being what others expect, they are more like themselves.
With a camera, you can also freeze a moment. With each second, the light changes, expressions change, people come and go, things move in the breeze. Those moments come and go. A camera captures an instant.
While pondering this preference, she wonders, “When did we stop seeing with our eyes?” That’s a profound question for our time. We attempt to capture every moment of our lives with the camera on our phones. If you are watching through a lens of a camera, are you really watching the person, the place, or the thing? What about the lens of your eye?
With our eyes, we see a bigger picture. We see the rest of the team, not just our grandchild taking a shot. We see other people watching, reacting, crying, laughing, and cheering. We see what’s on the periphery, on the edges, not just in the center. We see the raw, untouched, naturally lighted sight in front of us, rather than a perfect and flawless image. With our eyes, we see what is real, not a fictional photoshopped image of a person who doesn’t even exist.
With our eyes, we miss a lot, too. We don’t notice that person over on the side that we later see in a photograph. We blink and a moment is gone. An illusionist distracts us so that we don’t see what he is really doing with the cards.
How many photos have we taken in which we no longer know who the people are, no longer remember when or where we took the picture, or remember why we took that picture?
When we see with our eyes, we can then share our description of what we saw, which will include what captured our attention, sparked an emotion, and made us linger to watch for more than just a moment.