Autumn Leaves, 2003
“No two people see the same thing the same way.” Maybe it’s just me, but it seems I always hear that a negative context, as if two people seeing something differently means there's going to be a fight. I like to rephrase it to say, “Any two people makes for two opportunities to see the same thing differently.” I think there’s far more potential in that, and the prospect that someone else might find a perspective you didn’t see.
One of the most transformative professional experiences I’ve ever had was to spend a day with Edward de Bono, who made a name for himself decades ago as the father of “lateral thinking.” If you spend a day with the de Bono, you will repeatedly insist that you make decisions based on a fresh, objective criteria rather than a synthesis of all the decisions you’ve made before. Meanwhile, de Bono will repeatedly prove to you, so far as the way your brain works, that it really is as if the only tool you have is a hammer and all the problems you see look like nails. In short, we see things, form perceptions and make decisions based on very worn neural paths.
The bottom line with Edward de Bono is that there are always alternatives in any situation, and rarely only one “right” solution to a problem. However, our brain is conditioned during childhood to form and thereafter look for, and make anything new we see conform to familiar perceptions and logic patterns. This makes for good linear learning, but not for the exploration of alternatives and new ways of seeing things.
In photography, there are always choices. I get a kick out of seeing how two photographers will interpret the same place or event. Some times when I look at the results of a day when I’ve gone out shooting with another photographer our records of the day are so different that you’d have thought we were in different places.
Every now and then I think I’ve exhausted the possibilities for pictures in my own back yard. Then I turn my head and see something I’ve never seen before. Autumn Leaves, above, was one of those times. I was walking the dog one chilly December morning and happened to look up and see the leaves blowing. Leaves blowing are not an unusual event in our neighborhood. But something told me these leaves would be different. I rushed back to the house to grab the camera and come back and created a short series of pictures of the flying gold and red and I saw that morning.