Through My Lens
The Eyes Have It
Our ability to see, and capacity for vision, is limited and defined by the physical constitution of our eyes. Complex organs of our bodies, made up of rods and cones, retinas, lenses, photoreceptors and corneas, eyes provide us — and animals — with vision, the ability to receive and process visual detail. Eyes detect light and convert it into electro-chemical impulses in the neurons of our brains. But the eyes are so much more. They are windows that allow others to peer inside our souls and which reveal emotions — happiness, sorrow, joy, fatigue, excitement!
When I am photographing and observing animals in the wild, I watch their body language. Mostly though, I look at and watch their eyes. The eyes of animals are true – they don’t lie, and you can learn so very much about the animals by carefully observing them. As William Shakespeare once stated, “The eyes are the window to your soul.”
“When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” — Anthony Douglas Williams
A number of vertebrate species easily recognize the eyes of a human and “know” when they are being looked at. Highly social animals respond to this depending on the situation. Direct eye contact is often a behavior in establishing or challenging dominance. Face/eye recognition is built into the makeup of all vertebrate social species. Such ability and its resultant behavior is found in many fish, a number of reptiles (especially lizards), most birds and most mammals.
Do animals have emotions? I find it impossible to conceive that they do not. I would be vastly disappointed if they did not. Simply watch puppies as they scramble and play, mothers as they defend their young, males and they battle for dominance and the right to mate. There is no question in my mind that they are conscious beings, capable of experiencing play, rage, joy, fear, aggression, curiosity, love. And these feelings are expressed through their body language and … through their eyes … just as ours are.
I have found that when eyes connect, whether between people, between people and animals, and between animals, you have non-verbal soul-to-soul communication.
I see you seeing me seeing you. Words would be an intrusion on the experience.
A photographer friend gave me some of the best advice related to animal photography which I continuously use as a solid rule of thumb. He told me that if you can capture and focus on the eyes, then you have the shot. I have found this to be valid and true. If I can get a clear look into the animal’s soul through their eyes, then I have captured an image that I treasure and which evokes emotion.
So there ya go…the eyes have it!
“The next time you look into an animal’s eyes look deep and long. You will see their inner beauty and feel their living soul.” – Anthony Douglas Williams