Listen with your eyes. – By @carlyillston

By Carly Illston


Listen with your eyes.


On Wednesday afternoon Alan Burles gave us a presentation on his street photography. We were all blown away by the clever, cheeky, or humorous moments he captured. At first I thought the photos had to be staged, because things were lining up almost too perfectly. But he told us that none of his street photos are staged. Instead, he spots something that could become a moment, and waits for someone to wander in to exactly the right spot, sometimes for hours. It almost seemed that he had the gift of foresight, that he knew exactly when someone was going to do something worth capturing. But Alan told us that his only secret was that he had learned to listen with his eyes, which is a really beautiful sentiment.

What I took from this was learning to actively observe and process your surroundings, rather than just letting them pass you by. It is incredibly easy to find yourself on autopilot; to be existing rather than just living. We find ourselves listening to hear rather than to understand. We see without really looking. We speak without saying anything. We are not present.

A study by Daniel Gilbert confirmed that humans are mentally checked out for 46.9% of the time. For about half of our day, our minds are wandering, and we aren’t checked in to the outside world.

While in this almost unconscious headspace, we often miss things that are right in front of our noses. AMV BBDO demonstrated this phenomenon very well in this ad they made for Sainsbury’s:

This was absolutely mind blowing to me. How on earth could you miss a giant gorilla walking around the supermarket? But looking back on my last supermarket trip, I realised that I was going on autopilot. Go through the door. Pick up a basket from the left. Start at the fruit and veg aisle. Mushrooms, avocados, spinach, tomatoes. Go to the dairy aisle. Get milk. Go to the tinned food aisle. Go to the cereal aisle. Go to the bread aisle. Go to self checkout. Leave.

I was definitely on autopilot. And I definitely would have missed a giant gorilla walking down the aisles too.

We need to train ourselves to be present in the moment. And I know this is a learned behaviour, rather than something that comes naturally. Maybe the first step is to stop doing things for the sake of it. Be thoughtful with our words and actions. Start reflecting on our day, practise mindfulness, look at our surroundings. Watch out for the gorillas in the supermarket.

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