While walking to Photo East 2009, I noticed a small yellow bird sitting on the sidewalk. It had apparently flown into the building and was waiting for the bells to stop ringing as legions of camera-laden pedestrians marched by. I coaxed it onto my finger and lifted it to eye level. Now get this; I’m standing in mid-town Manhattan with a yellow bird on my finger… and nobody noticed. I mean nobody.
During a particularly slow train-ride into Manhattan recently I got into a conversation with someone with whom I only nodded to each morning as we passed each other on the platform. We talked about the snowstorm raging outside our cozy rail coach, as well as what we did for a living. Sanjay let on he had a hunch I was a photographer. Aside from the fact I usually had a camera dangling from my shoulder, I asked him what gave me away. He said it was because I always seem to be looking at something; the branches of the trees that line the rail station, the overhead lines that power the trains, and other things that others never seem to notice. "You're always 'looking'". Sanjay had me pegged.
His response made me think back to the yellow bird incident, as well as the something I have long believed, which is most people don't really see. That is, they see, but they don't really see. And there's a big difference between seeing and seeing. Most of us go through our days 'seeing' the same things everyone else around us is 'seeing', at least on the surface. Some of us for some reason or another,seem to see more than others. It might be a small detail, a spot of color, or maybe the dancing of shadows on a wall, but we see it, and when we do we often stop to take pictures while others walk on by, often mumbling something derogatory as they step around us.
I often wonder why I see things the way I do, while others never seem to get the knack of composing a visually balanced picture. And while I'm sure there are a plethora of scientific journals that address the subject, I'm not sure there's a clear answer to this question. As for my own reasons, I often joke about the fact I'm a lefty who was forced to write using my right hand,(or as I say, the wrong hand) which resulted in a handwriting reminicsent of Neolithic stone etchings. I had to take up photography because before word processing, photography was my only legible means of non-verbal communication.
Another theory I have - and it might somehow be related to being left-handed - is that despite the fact I was never formally tested, a box of donuts says I - along with a significant portion of the population - have a 'wiring' issue, a.k.a, a 'learning disability'.
At last count there are over 64 identifiable variations of what used to be called dyslexia, a word that had to be coined as a cruel prank for those who have it and have to spell it. Those who have variations of this condition often have issues with math, spelling, writing, eye-hand coordination, and depth perception. (If you're in good physical shape yet terrible at hitting, kicking, throwing, or catching a ball, take heed)
Regardless, my early school years were enormously frustrating. On the bright side, this 'wiring' issue is also what most likely made me a successful candidate for not one, but two art schools and everything else that has transpired ever since.
Now I'm not saying if you see yellow birds hopping around midtown Manhattan you're 'special' in any way, nor gifted, but if you do I'm willing to bet a second box of donuts you know how to compose a decent picture.