Teach Us To See

“Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.” — Vincent Van Gogh

Great post from Mike Powell on 15 Jan. He shared how a beautiful winter photo he’d taken of a male Northern Cardinal was published in Hearing Life Magazine. My opening quote was one Mike had used in his post.

The magazine used his photo full-page with another Van Gogh quote (albeit from the same letter written to his brother Theo from London in January 1874).

For the full story see Mike’s original post:

LINK:   Winter photograph published


CONGRATULATIONS  MIKE   …  Beautiful page !!!

Posted by Liz. Photo used with Mike Powell’s permission. Exploring Colour (2020)

6 thoughts on “Teach Us To See

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  1. Thanks, Liz, for the repost. I did not choose the Van Gogh quotation that appeared with the photo and much as I like it, I am even more drawn to the words of the quotation that you highlighted. Learning to see is so important. I have numerous occasions when I posted photos of something I observed at a particular location and other people who visited the same place asked me how I managed to see that subject. My response, usually unspoken, is to ask them how did they not see the subject. One of my all-time favorite quotations about photography comes from Dorothea Lange, who stated that, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” The more that I shoot, the better I see (I hope that makes sense.)


    1. Yes, what you said makes perfect sense Mike and to me that’s very true of what happens. I realised you didn’t choose the magazine quote but it was lovely that through researching the context of their choice you found this other great quote about ‘seeing’. I like both very much but it’s the quote about ‘seeing’ that really sticks in my mind. I’m glad your lovely cardinal got published!


    2. “My response, usually unspoken, is to ask them how did they not see the subject.” That sounds like a line Sherlock Holmes could’ve spoken. Compare this interchange between Watson and Holmes from “A Scandal in Bohemia:”

      “When I [Watson] hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning, I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

      “Quite so,” he [Holmes] answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”


      “How often?”

      “Well, some hundreds of times.”

      “Then how many are there?”

      “How many? I don’t know.”

      “Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What a wonderful passage, Steve. “You see, but you do not observe”–I love this kind of wisdom, which could equally have come from the mouth of Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, or other iconic masters, real and fictional, who have emphasized the need for focused attention.


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