When I was young, I spent a time fascinated by photography.
Preoccupied with Technology….
It was in the days of dark rooms, messy chemicals and expensive film you could not afford to waste. My budget was twenty four photographs a week, and every shot I wasted an expensive and painful mistake.
I became really quite technical proficient, and could juggle aperture, shutter speed and ISO really well. I had good teachers. Technically, I wasted very few shots.
I retained an interest, but other interests intruded, cameras became better, and digital efficiency bade farewell to the expensive film problem.
It became easy to automate settings, and with no pressure on costs, plus the magic of post production and photoshop, the technical challenges became less interesting.
Fast forward several decades, and the interest is returning and I discovered something important.
….I Had Never Really Learned To See
It started with a really simple challenge. Some bluebells on my daily walk. Everything time I went past, they had changed a little. They looked different at different times in the day. They became obscured by the trees coming into leaf.
I’m grateful for digital technology. Back in the day, the photographs I have taken would have represented several months budget.
I still haven’t got the shot I want, and will now have to wait till next year. The difference is, I now know what to look for. I know the land, and the effect of the times of day.
I could fake it I guess, in post production; but to what end? The craft, the joy of it is in seeing the original. I think it’s a relationship.
It’s not just Photography.
As I walked up and down to the woods it struck me that maybe we have forgotten how to see important aspects of our businesses.
It’s easy to automate all the things that add human light and texture to a relationship.
When we automate a human interaction, we make it transactional. I know what you’ve bought, when you bought it, and how efficiently you were served, but I have no idea how you felt about it, why you bought it, or how it’s changed you.
Perhaps it becomes like Stock Photographs. One shot, a good average representation, used by lots of people in lots of different contexts. Efficient. Soulless.
Experiences become data points. We can analyse lots of different ways of looking at historical data in new ways, and become better at forecasting broadly what might happen in future in a particular set of cicumstances.
Versus a unique and memorable shot of a moment in time. An insight into who someone is, as much as what they did. A building block in an effective relationship.
The danger is that we categorise and generalise and in the process can lose the ability to see what is really happening. Algorithmic Groupthink.
We need to learn to see
Just about everything we expected this year to be, last year, has been upended.
Whatever our plans were, they were wrong.
The same is not true of what we hoped for our business or ourselves.
The circumstances have changed, giving us new opportunities if we choose to see them as well as removing the ones we had expected.
The longer we spend grieving about the changes we did not expect, the less time we have to notice the changing light and shadow of what is happening now and capturing the moment.