I am a View Keeper
by Dewitt Jones
March 23, 2014 - 9:49am
"In the dark -- the incredible stillness of morning. Long before the birds, a time when, if you listen hard enough, you can almost hear the twinkling of stars. Long before color, long before texture or composition, your camera useless, your eyes at the limit of their perception . Yet still... the beauty."
Here on Molokai I’ve taken a new job -- View Keeper. Yes, that’s right View keeper.  Not innkeeper, not beekeeper but View Keeper.  Thoreau once said, “For many years I was the self appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms and I did my duty faithfully.” He would understand my new job.
"The first herald  of dawn -- an almost imperceptible softening of the blackness.; the subtlest awareness that light is slowly erasing the darkness from the other side. Then a mosquito, suddenly as large as the whole world, one tiny bit of the universe’s consciousness here in my ear."
As View Keeper, I am the visual steward of the vista below my house. Visual steward? Within this landscape it is my job to make sure that everything is noticed; noticed and appreciated; noticed and celebrated. 
As an exercise in noticing, photography is much like View Keeping. We set out with our cameras to notice, appreciate, celebrate. As photographers, however, our goal is to find extraordinary visions and capture them. The View Keeper’s goal is simply to notice everything... and hold it without judgment.
Not easy! I have been trained for years to judge. In composing an photographic image I constantly make judgments -- Should this branch be included? Would this shot be better with a warming filter. No, no, Dewitt, not the wide angle, this shot really sings when you put on the telephoto. These judgments aren’t bad, they help me take great photographs. But, as I said, the object of View Keeping is not a perfect image but simply connection and celebration.
"Under the mid-day sun, a languid breath of air touches the wind chime. No sound, the breeze so subtle that the chimes refuse to touch. Yet you can see the music in the light reflecting off the metal. You can hear it with your eyes."
Judgments help me make excellent photographs, but they separate me from the experience. I stand in awe before a breath-taking view. Then, as a photographer, I place my camera between me and the landscape. As the camera comes up, so do the judgments. When I finally click the shutter do I go back to just looking? No, usually my mind says, “Next! That was a great shot but give me another.  Give me something else to judge.” Answering the call of “Next”, I avert my eyes from a view that only moments before had filled me with wonder.
I’m not suggesting that we stop photographing. I’m just watching my own process and tempering it with a little unabashed View Keeping. Looking without judgment, connecting with everything that meets my eye, holding it all equal in beauty. 
Pure seeing is always without judgment and therefore without separation. Nature and I then view each other in the same way. And in that moment, “the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me”.
"The sunset went begging tonight. Clouds on the horizon gobbled the flamimg orb before it ever had a chance to turn them pink much less crimson. No matter -- it was a celebration in grays. Pewter, pearl, charcoal,  marcasite -- an photographic disappointment; a delight for the neophyte View Keeper."
Who cares for the beautiful things? As photographers we do. But who cares for the beauty of things that are not photographs. That is the purview of View Keepers.
In the movie, The Color Purple, Shug says, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.” Does a particular patch of purple make a photograph? Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. We should take notice. Emerson penned, “Each moment of the year has its own beauty... a picture which was never before seen and shall never be seen again.” As View Keepers, we can notice, hold and celebrate all of those moments.
So pick a view, folks. Adopt a landscape. Tell a vista that you promise to be its visual steward for the rest of your days. Join me in perfecting the art of View Keeping. And if pass my house, stop by. I’ll be spending part of each day working at my new job. I’ll be easy to spot. I may not have my camera out but I’ll be the one a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye.

Barb Bozzoon March 24, 2014 - 9:19am

Your words are so true and struck me deeply, Dewitt. By stopping to make judgements for that "perfect" image, we often miss out on the totally awesome experience. If not with the camera lens, but the lens of my eyes, the experience is captured deep within my soul forever! I think of all of the times that I lamented because I missed an awesome shot, not thinking to just be thrilled that I experienced the occasion. You always have such powerfully insightful blogs that jolt us into reality and help us get the "total experience" we long for as we savor the beauty that surrounds us! Many thanks, for opening up the World of Celebration, Dewitt!!

I am glad you finally put it all in words with a name, "View Keeper." For a number of years I've been reading you OP columns and have been struck by the many times you have written that the view, the experience overwhelmed you and you just stood their and took it all in without ever taking a photograph. Thank you for the words of wisdom, the thoughts that inspire. Sometimes maybe the best photographs are the ones we've captured with our mind.

I have followed your writings and photography since Outdoor Photographer was first published. Your words always touch me as much as your photos. You have as much a gift for writing as for photography and for this I thank you. Most evenings, from early spring until late fall, one can find me in my sunroom View Keeping. I'm fortunate enough to see the sun set behind the Rockies and often watch without my camera. But often it is just the view of people walking their dogs, children riding their bikes, sprinklers sprinkling sparkles on the grass, or the geese and pelicans flying overhead that keeps me out there View Keeping and saying Thank You. View Keeping without the camera expands my view.

Steve Bundersonon March 24, 2014 - 11:19am

Thank you my friend for this installment of the View Keeper. I love you words and the way they touch my heart and soul. During a down time, of soul seaching and trials, I was only able to get through it all after I remembered "The View Keeper" and took that title on to keep my mind and heart from breaking and fading away. You are and have always been a great teacher and "Seer", no pun intended. Well Maybe. Thanks again for giving all of us neophytes a gentle purpose and a little more direction in our lives and jobs as View Keepers and Image Recorders. And we will all continue to "Listen with our Eye's". as you pointed out, that is necessary to the role of a View Keeper.

There is a mountain of insight and wisdom in your words. I have been committing myself to making a full 360 without the camera at my eye when my initial image making inspiration has been sated to absorb more of my surroundings. And, I am finding that there are often further inspirations in other directions that I would have otherwise missed. My wife is a painter, and it has always amused me that she is usually painting a scene in the opposite direction from where my photo-making attention has been focused... that says something about looking away from the "trophy" shot I may have first "discovered" to find more subtle opportunities.

I LOVE this reflection, DeWitt. Soooo reminiscent of your articles in OP, all of which I loved. I have long been a viewkeeper out my home office window or car window or while out enjoying nature.. As I take breaks from my writing my soul is edified, fortified and nurtured by sweet Mother Nature. I have taken literally thousands of images nationally and internationally, but my most memorable ones are those images logged in my heart, mind and soul during moments of reverie about what Mama Nature has provided me throughout my days, weeks and years.I believe soul images are forever engraved to be eternally enjoyed and pondered regarding the inexplicably glorious creativity of our loving Designer God.

James R. Kyleon March 24, 2014 - 7:20pm

Yet, another great bit of truth for any Photographer and artist to - not only read - but understand The Why we do what we do.

Thank You for your wise and words.

John Hummelon March 25, 2014 - 8:14am

Such an amazing, insightful post. I am deeply touched by your thoughts here. I see that a pervasive element of "judgment" in my live is comparison with the past, with standards I hold about how things should be, how this image should be. This mindset, even more than the camera, separates me from the true experience of the moment. One of my teachers, Marianne Williamson, says that "to be born again" is to be totally present in the moment with no awareness of the past or illusion about the future, just here now "taking it all in". The Buddhists call it "mindfulness". I think the real joy that I experience photographing, only comes when I can be in a place with no agenda other than to soak in the beauty and point my camera at it without an expectation of the results. I so appreciate how you think because it stimulates in me so much soul-searching about the nature of the art we all practice. Thanks so much for being you.

Michelleon March 25, 2014 - 1:05pm

What a beautiful piece to read while taking a break from work. It's so nice that I found your FB page and website. Thank you for being you!

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