We think we see all the time. We think we observe. We also think we possibly know the world around us the way we are meant to. We see what we expect to most of the time. Maybe our mind conditions itself to show us only those things which we want to and the ones that we do not want to, well, they just get hidden. It could happen anywhere. In a familiar neighbourhood or maybe in a place you have never been to before. Maybe it is all about perspective or maybe about security, however it exists in all of us. The way we see and perceive of our surroundings or rather what we do not see.
“On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes” by Alexandra Horowitz is a book that maybe does not teach you how to look, but definitely provides some refreshing perspectives on the subject. The premise of the book is simple: Walking around the same path in a city with different people, almost eleven people or as she says twelve, and getting their point of view. The people ranged from her son to well-known illustrator Maira Kalman to a sound designer, bringing not only different perspectives but also making her and the readers think about our own perceptions.
I have loved almost everything about the book. From the way it is written to its premise. Sometimes it did become a little stretch; however I ignored it very easily with the turn of the page. “On Looking” brings together several elements at one time – it speaks of a simple everyday act, of different people performing it, through the same track and yet provides so much in the form of perceptions and how different people discover different things.
The book is definitely interesting and well written. Very rarely do I come across something in the non-fiction genre that catches my attention, but when it does, I savour it and mostly end up enjoying it as well. We hardly pay any attention to our senses and this book is a reminder of that fact. What it also does with its simplistic writing and views, is makes you want to see things differently. To me that is the highlight of this wondrous book that ultimately speaks of seeing things closer to you than to go in search of them far and beyond. A great read for sure.