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All the Surfaces I Want to Touch

We may be missing touching people and things these days, but we can still look! Textures are an excellent place to focus our attention. It’s hard to look without imagining how it would feel –

Menka Sanghvi
Menka Sanghvi
4 min read
All the Surfaces I Want to Touch
Just Looking Instagram. Pool fingers (probably quite similar to frequently handwashed fingers) by @trudie_btyne.

Hello friend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about satisfaction recently. I used to believe that people who are easily satisfied and content are lazy and not living up to their full potential. But what’s the alternative? Dissatisfaction, and discontentment. It’s funny but true.

Yesterday I was in the garden with my toddler collecting twigs and leaves while the sunlight danced between the clouds. It was a simple and joyful time together, but if I’m honest I was also feeling frustrated because I had other things planned to do. I was torn, wanting the impossible scenario of being in two places at one time.

My meditation teacher often talks about the importance of doing just one thing at a time. He says: “If we don’t concentrate fully on the one task at hand, we can’t get the juice out of it.” (He uses a Gujarati word “ras” which translates to both interest and juice.) It’s this juice that gives us that feeling of satisfaction with life. The quiet confidence that this moment, right here, it’s enough.

Giant bubbles popping in slow motion
It is bewildering to see what lies beyond our limited perception. If we could see more “slowly” this is what bubbles would look like. Watch from 49 seconds…

Listening for the music in everyday life
This is pure joy. Listen and watch how this dad has pieced together music from everyday life, including noises made by his adorable son. It is mindful listening.

Meet Uta Barth: “The camera was teaching me how to see”
Uta Barth has been photographing exclusively inside her home for over 14 years! What’s fascinating to me is that unlike most photographs in which the subject and content are the same thing, in Uta’s conceptual photograph the subject is the observer. In other words, her photographs are about perception itself.

Your output depends on your input
In life, we tend to be evaluated by our outputs. But as Austin Kleon reminds us in this blog, the quality of our outputs depends on the quality of our inputs. Applying this motto to photography, what shift can you make to your inputs?

Speaking of inputs, here is an Instagram account featuring photographers responding visually to the Coronavirus outbreak.

My Year of Living Mindfully
I’ve been looking forward to the release of this new documentary about mindfulness. It’s out now and free to watch between May 27 – June 03.

Bookcase credibility
Zoom calls might be a little exhausting by now, but I must confess to enjoying seeing people’s home environments, especially bookshelves. And then I discovered this creative and hilarious Twitter account @bcredibility

Art: #davedrawstuff via Rob Walker

Looking exercise

We may be missing touching people and things these days, but we can still look! And we can take our camera along to deepen the looking. Textures are an excellent place to focus our attention. It’s hard to look without imagining how it would feel – this is because sight is a sense that is highly infiltrated and altered by the participation of all other senses (what is known as synaesthesia) So observing textures can easily become a grounding, immersive experience. Give it a go:  

1. Choose a location.

2. Take a moment for yourself. You are embarking on an adventure in looking with your senses open, mind open, meeting the world as it is.

3. Move around slowly and observe all the textures around you. Once you start looking you’ll see more and more!

4. Move closer to any one texture that catches your eye.

5. Imagine how it might feel to run your hand along it – does it look rough, smooth, ticklish, furry, sticky, cold?

6. Explore the way light treats this texture. Notice any shadows created by the bumps. Notice any reflections in the smooth areas.

7. Is there a repeating pattern or theme? How close do you have to get before you can’t see the pattern anymore?

8. Finally, bring your camera up and choose how to fill the frame. Further away to get a sense of the whole, closer for an abstract image.

9. Now take another moment to check in with yourself. How does it feel to have spent a few minutes in curious exploration?

Technical suggestion: If you are using a camera with manual settings, you may want to shift towards a high aperture number (f/5 or more) so that the texture is in even focus.

If you’re on Instagram come and join us @wearejustlooking and share your photo using the community hashtag. Your looking will inspire others!

Can’t you just feel these textures? By @danielleroeleveldphotography


“Every time I see or hear an unusual bird, time stops, and later I wonder where I was, just as wandering some unexpected secret passageway can feel like dropping out of linear time. Even if brief or momentary, these places and moments are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it.”

– Jenny Odell in How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy
More amazing books on looking.

Thank you for reading. I am grateful for your companionship here and am always excited when one of you reply! To share this letter with fellow good lookers: here’s the web link.

Sending a hug,


Menka Sanghvi Twitter

I'm a researcher, writer, and designer working on the theme of mindful curiosity. Just Looking is a project I started to help myself and others slow down and experience more wonder in the everyday.

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