How Long ?

How long do we spend looking at the work we have created….. it’s complete, it’s printed, and maybe even mounted.. but how long do we look at it after that?  Do we ever go back, and think, “I could have done that better” – and then actually done that…. Or do we move on and start something new and fresh, and more exciting?

I ask, because last year I went to an exhibition to see reproductions of paintings by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel.   It was wonderful – a ticketed event – for free – with time to browse…. Trouble was, there were so many people wanting to see the event, that it was crowded and somewhat time restricted as folks flowed in and out all the time.

I think we were spending no more than a minute or so with each panel – though the ticket said you could stay as long as you wanted.

Minor White used to say that you should spend at least 30 minutes with a photograph – stare at it, embed yourself in it, search your emotional response to it – a bit different from my experience in Hull last year.

Watching people at a photographic exhibition the same year, I came to the conclusion that people were spending, on average around 10 seconds per image.  Some obviously for longer and some for less…. And I’m as guilty as the next person for not allowing myself time to really ‘look’ – I think sometimes it’s because I’m with someone else, who may not be as interested as I am, and so I rush through – trying to please the person I’m with, by not dawdling around.  

How long, is the right amount of time to spend?  I have no idea, but probably somewhere between 10 seconds and 30 minutes….. maybe.  The one thing I do know is that we don’t spend enough time looking…..

During this rather unusual year of pandemic – there have been many online exhibitions of art that we could see – including a tour round the Louvre…. I wonder how many people did this, and really looked… 

Let me know if you did…….

Author: Diane Seddon ARPS AFIAP CPAGB BPE3* - D Seddon Photography

I am a retired freelance photographer, based in Louth, Lincolnshire.

8 thoughts on “How Long ?”

  1. As to viewing works of art. If it is an exhibition which scheduled for a limited time and not works to which you can return then I try to concentrate on one or two elements of the picture. Great artists do not fill up space without a reason. It is fascinating to discover some easily overlooked feature.


  2. You make a good point Diane, we should take more time to appreciate not only photo’s & art but life in general.
    I think this discussion illustrates the shortcomings of the almost universal policy of “spot judging” now in our clubs and the selection process at exhibitions. One of the benefits of Zoom is the practice of sending competition entries to a judge prior to the night for them to peruse at their leisure.


  3. I agree with both George and yourself Di. It is true on the wildlife watching front. I am a fan of a nature writer called Jim Crumley; try the quartet: The Nature of Spring; Summer; Autumn and Winter. He spends lengthy times (hours) just sitting and watching. Becoming part of his surroundings and letting nature come to him. Our world is too frantic and Covid has given us the time to stand and stare.


  4. Interesting thought, we do not spend long enough viewing at times, perhaps it is because we have evolved in a world that requires speed to deliver in our lives, for instance how we perform at work with deadlines etc makes us think every thing should be done yesterday.maybe we should slow the carousel down a little to prevent us flying off it and enjoy the ride more.

    Liked by 1 person

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