Vision Development Through Photography

Photography projects are wonderful activities that optometrists can use to help their patients improve their skills in seeing. Photography helps one direct their gaze to what light affords. Through photography, patients begin to discover improved skills in: Visual Attention, Visual Memory, Visual Imagery, Visual Discrimination, Visual Figure-Ground, Visual Closure, Visual Form Constancy and more. 

I usually give the assignment of taking pictures of all the circles and squares that they can see in their environment. Depending on the viewer’s position in space, circles can become ovals, but spheres can’t. Squares can transform into diamonds and rectangles, and cubes morph into all varieties of configurations. 

The book, Zen Camera by David Ulrich, elaborates on the benefits of photography to vision development – when reading it, I discovered I was in a familiar conversation with a kindred colleague albeit, from a different profession; a colleague none the less, dedicated to helping people learn to see. You may experience the same thing when reading some of the quotes from his book below.

In reference to students – “They don’t know the uniqueness of their own vision. Regrettably, society as a whole offers very little support for the education of vision. How does one learn to see? In what way do we cultivate our vision?” and “Seeing can be learned.”

In reference to light – “Light is the currency of photography and what reveals the things of the world to our eyes and brain.” and “Watch the light and savor it, always.”

 In reference to observation – “Unfortunately, many people have not had even rudimentary visual training (italics mine) and lack awareness of effective visual communication.” and “Simply stated, seeing is a form of knowing.” and “… just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it.”

 In reference to awareness – “The final step in the heightened awareness exercise is to close your eyes and recall the ‘remembered’ image of what you have observed.” 

In reference to attention – “I’ve saved for last what I think is the single most important attribute of a photographer: the ability to have and pay attention.”

In his book, David Ulrich also quotes from other who reference the importance of vision development.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothy Lang

David Ulrich’s mentor, Minor White wrote “The Visualization Manual.” Ulrich helped edit this unpublished manual and shared much of what he learned from White in his book:  Zen Camera.  Losing an eye at age 33 years of age, helped David deepen his understanding of perception, and motivated him to write another book:  Deep Perception – Cultivating The Art Of Seeing. This will, hopefully, be in print soon. I think he would enjoy Emily Lyons’ book: How To Use Your  Power Of Visualization…  I think I’ll send him a copy.

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