Observation is a moral necessity. My attraction to photography didn’t emerge from moral necessity. It was more like breathing, taken for granted, a biological action & a cultural idea interweaving daily; something familiar and taken for granted. I was just aping my parent’s behaviors. Photography was my parents’ recreation, one way of paying attention to whom they wanted their children to be. If I’m unkind, I’d say they wouldn’t have paid attention at all if it weren’t for their desire to use their cameras. Their cameras and how they used them reflected their aspirations in their time.
Loren Eiseley writes that, “God asks nothing of the highest soul but attention.” I don’t know about God. I imitated my father and mother and grandmother behaviors. Attention is one of my higher powers and I attend to it, I schooled myself in it more than I knew at the time, for development of such things, and I do inwardly digest what I pay attention to. To pay attention, to observe, I think is something like being one whom waits who is also serving… but documents it.
I did intend to cultivate “higher”. And I began to do this trying to imitate photographers Eugene Atget and Bernice Abbott. I was drawn to their images. I lived and moved and had my being in a major city and I could see their images in museums. I could work to emulate them.
Imitation is more like what I would call my judgment in the word “higher” now. Back in my day my aspiration wasn’t quite so articulated and unraveled. In reality I just think I was young and proud and aspirational. I wince a wee bit now at my “higher” judgments.