How do you like to travel? Do you pick a destination and then spend every spare minute researching what to do and where to go and what to eat? Sometimes that is the best way to make sure nothing important is missed. A lot of people have one opportunity to get to a location in their lifetime and no one wants to get home to find out they missed the Grand Canyon when they were in Arizona or Mount Rushmore when they drove through South Dakota. The internet has made trip researching and planning easier than ever with the advent of such sites as TripAdvisor and Google. Experiences by other travelers are openly shared on the internet helping to point the compass in the right direction.
I decided to approach my last trip more like a wandering nomad with only a general sense of driving west or east today, north or south tomorrow. It went against every grain of Type A personality planning that I have carried around since birth. This was not easy...at all. I find comfort and security in plans. I know what I'm doing. I don't have to worry about what might happen if... I decided to do it because someone I admire a lot used to travel that way. That person was Ernst Haas. He talked about it in his film documentary "To Dream With Eyes Wide Open":
I was always accused of not knowing where I am going and what I'm doing. This is really true because there is an element of surprise which for me is very, very important.
Could this really be true, I wondered? Had I been behaving like a banker my whole life and worse yet, on my photography trips? Taking out every ounce of creativity as I marched through my itineraries, checking off my to-do list one by one?
I decided to put my trust in Ernst Haas. Just once. I took comfort knowing that if it didn't work, I wouldn't do it again. I knew where I was sleeping at night and that was it. I let the car do the driving and if something piqued my curiosity I explored it, letting myself be available to any whim that arose. From the very first photo of my trip, it lead me to off the beaten track places like this:
to the very last photo of my trip:
Was it successful? I don't know, but I felt like this method of travel worked out very good for me and I will definitely try it again. On repeated occasions I remember thinking how lucky I was and being grateful for every moment I had and working like crazy before the clock ran out of time.
I hope you enjoyed this blog and I thank you very much for coming by. As you may have noticed I am test driving a new logo. Comments are open so feel free to let me know your thoughts. Thank you!
Originally published Apr. 7, 2012
I have been writing about a 1980 video documentary on Ernst Haas entitled “To Dream With Eyes Wide Open”. In my last blog, I discussed Haas’ idea that artists incorporate their surroundings and then are able to re-present those surroundings with their own personal vision or experience on whatever medium is in front of them: canvas, paper, etc. using whatever vehicle they have in their hand: paintbrush, camera, pen, etc.
Another profound idea in his documentary is that children see in pure vision and as they grow up that is taken away from them as they are schooled and civilized. Adult artists then must relearn how to “see” as they did when they were a child.
“If you are a child in many ways you are really yourself and you have a strange kind of a logic and the grown-ups come and they want to correct all this beautiful logic which is as illogical as poetry because it goes in a truth which is far beyond intelligence. And then comes the school and you learn to read and you learn to write. And suddenly this literary dictatorship pushes away all your vision and you are no more free. You can’t see a tree, no, you have to say “tree.” You have to know where it is, how it is called. You can’t enjoy pure looking, pure observing, pure thinking. But to live without a name this is when you become visual. When there are no captions. When it just is and with it being, it becomes. That means you have to unlearn to read and write and just live a little bit with your eyes…and maybe…music. So you really become yourself. I don’t want to become mystical but in meditation you do that. You forget yourself. You push your ego away while you be yourself. Forget that you want to be the best photographer in the world. Forget that you want to make the prize in this and this competition. There are no prizes, there are no competitions.”
This reminds me of a museum experience I had with another mom and her kids. At every painting or structure, she would stop and recite outloud to her kids whatever description was below the piece. I had not been doing this, merely observing with my own kids and “oohing” or “aahhing” or “wow-ing”. I started to feel somewhat self conscious of myself at this point. Here was the other mom, giving her kids a crash course in art history, their brains growing larger by the second. I sheepishly started to do the same with my kids, a little quieter and now, intentionally, a few more steps behind the other mom. Now, I am rethinking that experience. Maybe it was ok to just observe and experience without all the details and background information.
There are really two big ideas in this excerpt from Haas. The first is the seeing as a child part and the second is the competition part. In today’s world where so much of people’s identities is wrapped up in internet presence and competition in photography is as fierce as it ever was, it is difficult to not get wrapped up in that thinking. By that I mean when you are in the process of creating, your thoughts are not with what you are doing but with what the end result will be. I guess not in the present, but in the future. I like the thought of it – just being at peace with what is. Photographing something because you are drawn to it, not because you are trying to gain critical acclaim or recognition for your work.
Coming up: I think I will take a break from the Ernst Haas quotes and talk about or better yet, show what is going on outside: images of Spring.
Happy Easter everyone!
Originally published March 1, 2012
I found myself thinking a lot about Ernst Haas’ 1980 video documentary “To Dream With Eyes Wide Open”. I checked it out from the library some time ago and wished I had taken better notes when I initially watched it. So, I checked it out again, as it is impossible to find for sale, and this time I took copious notes. I rewound and rewound the tape until I got his statements word-for-word.
I initially happened upon Ernst Haas’ work while reading a book called The 50 Most Influential Photographers Of All Time by Chris Dicke. I blogged about his use of motion in still photography back in February of 2011.
I would like to spend a couple of weeks talking about some of his ideas because they are so rich; a virtual goldmine of information to anybody working in the visual arts. This week, I would like to explore the main theme of his documentary, dreaming with eyes wide open.
He says “We eat, we digest. We don’t only digest food, we also digest knowledge, what we learn. But there’s another way of digestion which has nothing to do with our consciousness. It’s kind of an unconscious way to digest and that’s dreaming. That means you go into a state almost like an aware kind of sleep which means you’re all free, just let it be. Let it become and with tremendous compassion towards everything may it be human beings, or nature, or objects, you incorporate. It’s almost like, ah, in Buddhism, you would say incarnation. You become things, you become an atmosphere. And if you become it, which means you incorporate it within you, you can also give it back. You can put this feeling into a picture. A painter can do it and a musician can do it and I think a photographer can do that too. And that I would call the dreaming with open eyes.”
Those are beautiful words dear readers. When I wonder whether I have an image to depict this concept, the first thing that comes to mind is this image. The memory of it came to me instantly and without reflecting upon or questioning it and whether there is a better choice, I am simply going to include it. I was looking at this figure in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts when I felt compelled to push the button. I was literally shooting from the hip. You can see the camera strap around my neck but I didn’t know what was in the viewfinder except that I had the lens pointed toward the statue. I did not know what happened until after I looked at the LCD. But I liked what I saw.
I hope you found this inspiring and tune in for more to come. In the meantime, happy (day) dreaming!
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.