Beauty abounds when and if we look for it
Sunlight reflecting off the sink fixtures
When I hear “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” I take it to mean that some people find beauty where others do not. An artist friend who designs and sells jewelry once remarked that he made it a practice to experience beauty every day. I thought that was wonderful. But between work and family life, the only time I found available to search for beauty was when I was out with a camera looking for it.
Searching for opportunities to compose elements within a frame in ways that fed my aesthetic hunger, I frequented scrap yards, construction sites, abandoned buildings, tractor-trailer grave yards, empty fairgrounds, railroad graveyards and musty antique shops. As a consequence of creating order out of visual chaos, I was experiencing beauty in unconventional places and subjects. I first noticed this when I realized that I didn’t need to go to the beaches, national parks or anywhere else to experience beauty. It was at hand. To transform an ugly or ordinary object into a beautiful one, all I had to do was to decide to see it that way—with or without a camera.
My interest in “beauty” as a subject has been an evolution. As a child, I thought certain people, places and things were intrinsically beautiful and others were not. Through readings and formal education I learned that beauty is subjective and it varies widely between individuals. Camerawork taught me that beauty can be manufactured, as when we light or arrange objects in a more pleasing way. And that by deliberate choice, an ordinary object can be transformed into something beautiful. Actually, that was my job as a producer-cinematographer for television stations, often challenged by advertisers to make their everyday products—like sheets and pillow cases, watches and toys—look beautiful.
As subjective experience, beauty (along with goodness and truth) evades description. Nonetheless, each of us can, with contemplation, find some words that will help us better understanding its place in our lives. Currently, the experience of beauty presents me with feelings of joy and harmony, sometimes awe. I think it comes, often at a subconscious level, from attunement to nature’s design principles—the subject of last week’s posting.
The above image reminds me that beauty can be found everywhere we look—literally in the kitchen sink. And I can predispose myself to experience it by choosing to see it in everyday places and objects. Beauty is not only something to be found, it’s something to be receptive to—and even make. It’s not in the “eye” of the beholder. It’s the heart touched by the grandeur of being.
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.