Contemporary seeing, constant exposure to man-made images – advertisements, buildings, advertisements on buildings, films, the digital imagery of life in social media – gets tiring. We get used to it all, and though it still manages to agitate us, inspire us, or sicken us, none of us are immune to the desensitization that comes with visual burn-out. At some point it seems like there is no choice but to get back to nature, not only to appreciate visual beauty carved out over centuries and that has no concern for human affairs, much less the city, but to give our eyes a much needed rest. Nothing like a weekend in France’s massif central to re-charge.
Though the instruments we use to visualize nature – to explore, document, or study it – ultimately subject nature to our intentions to promote, to awe, to know, seeing in nature at once gives perspective to the kinds of seeing we practice in everyday life in every culture, and at the same time shapes it, despite the traces of civilization we often encounter while trying to escape for just a while. Seeing nature is the source of our understandings of color, of proportion, of distance and scale. It at once refuses and contains all of the imagery we conceive in it. If only for the time of a short walk in the woods, escaping the visuality of urban life re-sensitizes us to its constructedness, to its inspiring dynamism, and to some of its uglier shortcomings.