'The Good Eye'

Like many who have built a career around being a photographer, I’ve often been told I have a ‘good eye’. It’s more or less a necessary job skill. A question that has come up throughout my career is whether or not having a ‘good eye’ is something that can be learned, or is it some innate ability? ‘Good’ here doesn’t mean good as we usually use the word, as in good or bad. For sure, some are gifted with a ‘good eye’ —a natural sense of the visually correct and beautiful. In my experience, some of the people with the best ‘eyes’ have not necessarily made it their life’s work to do anything with their innate ability. Democratizing social media platforms such as Instagram now offer an outlet for those amazing ‘eyes’—they abound—and humble me.

The Good Eye can be learned. On the one hand it’s very much about educating our process of Seeing— becoming more discerning observers. My eye was, and still is, honed by looking at great art-constantly, and asking myself: why does this work? We can break down and study the components of visual discernment— color, form, shape and proportion, light and shadow, contrast, texture, line, angles and curves, composition—and become more acute visual thinkers.  This is about the practice of seeing–deliberately. It’s a kind of sophisticated attentional training. By tuning in to the components of sophisticated imagery we wire our visual sense to the Good. Like anything else, the more you focus (pun intended) on a skill, the more automatic it becomes.

The second and equally important part of developing a Good Eye is the opposite of the analytical aspect above. Good here means that our mind is uncluttered by preoccupation, relaxed and open. It’s more about a letting go—of thinking, of preconceived notions, of labeling what we see. It’s aboutseeing clearly without filters and biases, it’s about allowing ourselves to be completely present and open to the moment, to feel the image—to re-present reality through the lens of our unique and pure perception. It’s an internal, intuitive, fearless kind of seeing. It’s a form of self-forgetting; it feels like flow. Photography approached in this way borders on spiritual practice, and images created in this space are the ones that resonate most with the viewer.

The Good Eye is a muscle we can build like any other. The fact that we have the camera now always in our pocket is an advantage if used rightly—to tune in rather than tune out—as a practice it is incredibly enlivening. —EW

elizabeth watt

Elizabeth has been recognized as one of the industry’s top still life and food photographers for over 20 years. She studied photography at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With an extensive technical background, Elizabeth draws her inspiration from painting, collage, sculpture and nature.  Her commercial work has a distinctly artistic focus. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines such as Food & Wine, Gourmet, Bon Appetite, Martha Stewart Living, Body and Soul, Town and Country, O Magazine, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. Her commercial clients have included Campbell’s, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Pepperidge Farms, Kraft,  General Mills,  Bath and Bodyworks, American Express, Neiman Marcus and Rosewood Resorts. She has many award winning book covers to her credit, and countless cookbooks, and has been featured in both Graphis and Communication Arts Magazines.

 

Elizabeth also enjoys teaching Photography and Creative Process both in academia and the corporate world. She has been an adjunct professor of photography at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and a guest lecturer at The School of Visual Arts and Parsons in NYC, as well as running workshops and seminars at various locations around the country.

 

Elizabeth blogs on the subjects of creativity, seeing, and photography at www.create-shift.com/blog. After completing an executive coaching certificate through NYU's School of Leadership and Human Capital Management, Elizabeth also helps people shift their mindsets and create habits to support creative output. More of this work can be seen at www.create-shift.com.

In addition to photography, Elizabeth is currently working on a book on how to leverage the creative mindset in the service of everyday productivity. She currently lives in San Miguel de Allende