Ernst Haas: Words of Inspiration
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!
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I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.