I open my eyes. Light waves pass through my cornea and pupil, then hit the lens, which sends them, upside down, towards the goo-jelly retina. Rods and cones sort out shape and color, then dump the information on my optic nerve. The picture zings off to a cortex which tells me that I see a coffee cup, a pencil, words across a screen.
That’s my vision. It’s the way vision works for most people that I know. Brenda Gottsabend is an exception. Her eyes unearth a certain magic beneath the veil of the mundane. For Brenda, a scrubby pane of glass provides a window to a story. Shadows and geometry have voices. Architecture sings. Rain puddles are portals to a new perspective. Reflections really do make you think. The world, in Brenda’s eyes, is an unfolding transformation. You never know just what you’ll see.
You might chalk it up to a clearer cornea. A better goo-jelly retina. Faster nerves. But in the end, it’s Vision. After almost 30 years as an IT professional, Brenda gave up her job, her benefits, her matching 401 contributions, and free cable tv, to go back to school in graphic design. And find her eye.
I met Brenda through a beginning bloggers’ contest on Judy Dunn’s website. We didn’t win the contest, but we got something even better. Over the last year and a half, we’ve become friends and creative partners. Brenda’s photographs are the heart of Wing-Feather Fables. Even after a year of working together on this project, I still get a delicious thrill when she sends me new images. What stories will I find there? What wonder? Her work fuels my imagination.
It is my distinct pleasure and a huge honor to have Brenda as my guest today. I know you will, like me, be inspired by her Vision. Framed by her eye, those light waves are never just a coffee cup, a pencil, or words across the screen. They are amazement.
“I took to photography like a duck to water.”
For most of my life, I had little interest in photography as a medium of creative expression. During my children’s growing-up years, I was a grudging photographer at best, taking snapshots of the requisite big moments, mainly because such parental behavior was expected.
No, my creative spirit was fed through other outlets. Over the years, I dabbled in many creative endeavors, from beading to crochet, a decade-long relationship with rubber stamping and the paper arts.
Photography, however, was never on my creative radar. After all, photography was much too technical. There was all that business of f-stops, aperture, exposure, shutter speeds and reciprocal triangles. Darkroom processing and smelly chemicals. Lugging around big cameras and lenses. There were flashes and reflectors and light meters. And besides – what in my immediate world was photo-worthy? No, photography was definitely not for me.
Then a tsunami of change flowed through my life. After 30 years, I left my professional career and went back to school to study graphic design. I loved it.
Except when I discovered that one of the certificate requirements was a Digital Photography course.
I entered the classroom filled with trepidation. I was the only student with a point-and-shoot digital camera instead of a dSLR. I just knew this was going to be a disaster of major proportion and an excruciating 8 weeks.
It wasn’t, in fact, a disaster but a revelation. I became the duck and photography my water.
I believe there are things that come into our lives only when we are ready for them. And I was finally ready for the lessons photography had to teach me about myself and the way I view the world.
It has been four years since we found each other; four years of walking the streets of my hometown, seeing it with brand new eyes. Because that’s the thing about photography – once you learn to “see”, you can’t “un-see” – your vision is changed forever.
I used to believe that great photographs could only be created in sublime locations. How could the humble streets of Canton, Ohio compare to the great cities of Europe, the pristine beaches of the Caribbean or the majesty of the Rocky Mountains?
But this is the gift photography has given me: to understand that everything – the mundane, the familiar, the commonplace – is an opportunity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
And it is this transformation that explains why photography is part of my daily life, even on those days when I must force myself to pick up the camera. It isn’t about whether the result is a fantastic or memorable image but rather the thrill within that quiet moment of discovery, when something new is seen.
From the vast array of photographic possibilities, I am carving my own way, making choices. Patching together the things that work for me and eliminating the things which don’t. Ignoring the “shoulds” and the “musts”.
I am enamored with shadows and reflections and geometry; with lines and shapes and light. I can’t really explain the attraction. Why my eyes have become sensitive to their presence. Rather than question, I am trying to be still and see. To train my lens on the images which have meaning for me – which trigger that electric jolt of recognition – “this speaks to me.”
My goal is to see the world, in all its imperfection, as something exquisite. And then share it.
let it shake you,
then share it.”
From The Good Life Project “Living Creed”
by Jonathan Fields
Brenda Gottsabend is a photographer who chases sunlight and shadows, searching for magic with which to fill the frame. Having retired from the corporate world in 2011, she now packs her days with photography, Photoshop, blogging at How to Feather an Empty Nest and a daily dose of dark chocolate. In her role as a volunteer graphic designer for Nest, she has discovered her life’s calling – proving the adage that it’s never too late. Prints of her work are available in her online shop.
Where will your vision lead you today? What will you see differently, with new eyes?