- And can photography help us become more curious?
Curiosity is, “a motivator for learning, influential in decision-making, and crucial for healthy development.” - Celeste Kidd and Benjamin Hayden, The Psychology and Neuroscience of Curiosity
Whether it was stone-age man’s discovery of how to make fire from flint or the development of our latest vaccine today, most human achievements have been the result of curiosity - of someone, somewhere, asking what if? how does this work? what does this do? what would happen if? We have only to look to children at play to realise that the desire to find out things, to test things, to experiment, is a basic human desire, and, thankfully, this curiosity extends well beyond childhood in many people. It is curiosity that drives the world’s best scientists, engineers, architects and designers, inventors and creatives. It is curiosity that runs business and enterprise and produces entrepreneurs; in short, it is curiosity that gets things done.
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. - Albert Einstein
When human curiosity is aroused it fires us up to look for solutions, to think creatively and more deeply about our decisions, to seek more and better ways of doing things. Curiosity encourages people to ask questions, to look at situations from many perspectives, to be open to taking on new information. It is the curious who drive innovation and contribute so much to society. Some of the world’s most successful companies actively encourage curiosity. Former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, once said, “We run this company on questions, not answers,” and Google has purposely sought to identify curious people through specific interviewing techniques. Curiosity ensures that we become life-long learners and are always interested and interesting.
Research has shown curiosity to be associated with higher levels of positive emotions, lower levels of anxiety, more satisfaction with life, and greater psychological well-being.
Some further benefits of being curious are:
· It keeps our mind active and combats boredom
· It encourages empathy as we try to consider all perspectives and all angles of an issue
· It enhances our problem-solving skills
· It develops our creativity and our ability to engage in creative thinking
· It enables us to expand our thinking to take account of new possibilities
· It keeps us interested in life and lessens the chances that we would succumb to depression
Some people have a natural curiosity; they love to learn, explore, seek answers, test ideas and discover creative outcomes. A well-loved Irish broadcaster, who was a valued and active member of public life right up until his death in his eighties, was once asked what was the secret of his fit mental state, to which he replied, “Curiosity, I’ve always been curious.” Without those endlessly curious people our world would be a much poorer place. In fact, it seems abundantly clear that curiosity is crucial to the future of human society.
Can photography help us become more curious?
It might not be immediately obvious to the non-photographer what curiosity has to do with photography or photography with curiosity, but any photographer, even the most casual photographer will know that curiosity is an essential component of photography. Blogger Tim Denning, in The 7 gifts of Adopting a Personal Development Mind-Set, states that curiosity is about wanting to know more, discover more, do more and be more, it’s about having a zest for life, having a sense of adventure, approaching situations with a sense of awe and wonder. To me, this description sums up the opportunities which photography offers those who practice this artform. To produce good images, we need to be curious about almost every aspect of our craft. We need to explore different locations, experiment with composition and perspective, ask questions and make decisions about lens choice, aperture and shutter speed, choose our best subjects and search out the best light. We also need to become observant, appreciative of the beauty that we capture on camera, be always seeking to know more, do more, see more to improve our craft. Essentially, curiosity is about being drawn to and wanting to find out more about things that interest us. By using photography as a vehicle through which to develop our curiosity we are constantly opening new doors for ourselves and discovering new possibilities. We begin to see things differently and observe more closely. We feel more alive and more fully engaged in the moment. We truly become life-long learners. If curiosity is crucial for healthy development then we are fortunate, for photography encourages curiosity and curiosity in turn develops our photography.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” Einstein
Curiosity in photography is about:
Seeing from different perspectives
Experimenting with different lenses
Discovering different ways to compose an image
Experimenting with new equipment
Seeing beauty in the ordinary
Approaching subjects with a sense of awe and wonder
If you are interested in further reading on the topic of curiosity you might be interested in the following articles:
"Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one to ask why," - Bernard Baruch