Seeing the Unseen
Deconstructing the rainforest
Every time we step out of our homes we are bombarded with a million things to see.
From billboards to advertisements on vehicles, high-rise buildings, gates, street lamps and more, it is easy to be put off by this information overload. I am often unable to focus on any one thing, and end up ignoring it all.
Yet, it is during my first walk through a rainforest, that I find myself most overwhelmed by this feeling. Perhaps, because here unlike in the cities, I am taken over by curiosity rather than indifference. My mind grapples to make meaning of what I see and a sense of positive discomfort takes over.
It is difficult to process the expanse of the rainforest in all its levels and layers initially. I am torn between having to look down and watch my step versus look up to the life in the understory, canopy and beyond. Undoubtedly, it becomes necessary to pause, slow down and absorb these surrounding in segments in order to make sense of the whole.
A breathtaking view of the jungle giants lit by the morning sun.
Having spent the last few weeks working and exploring the rainforest at the Manu Leaning Centre, Peru, I understand that the more time I spend within the rainforest the more curious I am. In fact, I cannot help but notice that in this seemingly chaotic world lies an implicit order. As a visual artist, I am inevitably drawn to the patterns and textures within the structure of this extraordinary landscape that surrounds me.
Intricately drawn out patterns within the expanse of an extraordinary landscape.
Patterns and textures occur at every scale of the rainforest: in the way the trees branch out to form the canopy cover, in the geometric arrangement of leaves on different plants, in the symmetry in the eyes of a spider, eyes of frogs, scales of snakes and fur of the monkeys. And this is only the tiniest fraction of what we can potentially encounter on just a single trek through the jungle.
With eyes in perfect symmetry, this spider lies still on the lookout for its prey.
However, what is most intriguing is that, there is more to the rainforest than meets our naked eye. The infinite intricacies which exist within the realm of the macro world of this landscape leaves me awestruck.
It is amazing to see how much more we can unfold with just a single change of lens: both metaphorically and literally. It is not what we see that enhances our understanding of a place but how we see it. In what context are we seeing it, from whose point of view and why?
As photographers, we have access to different tools that allow us see beyond what might seem obvious at first. I am able to appreciate, not just the symmetry in the form of the frog, but also to observe the fine detail and colour in the pattern of its eye.
An eye characterised by colour, texture and pattern.
I enjoy observing the delicate construction of an ant, the way it is shaped and the way it moves its legs by looking at it
It is in the beauty and construction of the minutia that this vast landscape truly comes alive.
Sometimes, even things I have seen several times before surprise me if I make an effort to pause and look at them through different lenses. If I take a dragonfly, for example, I have always found these creatures to be delicate and beautiful with
But, it’s only when I spend time, zoomed into different parts of its form that I notice things such as the hexagonal grid pattern across its eyes surface. This makes me curious about its vision and how it might affect the way it makes its way through
The hexagonal grid pattern of a dragonfly’s eye makes us question how differently the world must be perceived by it.
Through this experience, I am made to understand the importance of a pause, in stopping to observe and take note of my surroundings. A mindset which can be applied to explore and interact with any place that we might delve into, irrespective of who we are and what lens we use.
With seemingly infinite possibilities, there is much to uncover with each aspect of the forest and never a moment to be bored. By looking at this landscape from a macro to micro scale, by zooming in to elements within, I have a renewed understanding of these surroundings each time.
While I am motivated and excited by the possibilities of encountering large mammals in the rainforest, I cannot help but find myself hooked by the smaller creatures and the finer details of this landscape, which leave me in awe of all things we can easily take for granted.