Observing the Observer

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Sometimes the observer is more enticing and memorable than the observed.

In this case, Monitor photographer Robert Harbison visited Meteor Crater in Arizona and saw this man studying the ''painting'' at the visitors' center.

But, look twice, it isn't a painting. It's a hole in the wall surrealistically transformed into a painting of the distant mountains. The big crater is on the other side of the wall and down 570 feet to rock bottom (deeper than the Washington Monument is high).

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Along comes Harbison to set up the following chain of serious nonsense: you, the reader, observing Harbison's photo, in which he observed an observer observing the landscape, not to mention the writer of these words observing Harbison's photo of the observer observing.... Well, you get the picture.

The point here is not Meteor Crater. That was created some 22,000 years ago when a huge meteor hit the earth at an estimated 33,000 m.p.h. Anyone can observe the remaining brown hole, 4,150 feet across. Astronauts, preparing to go to the moon, trained here.

The point, I think, is that Harbison's contained view delightfully turns around the perspective to suggest a more open view. Herein lies one of the purposes of art, to tell the truth in a new way. As lawyer Clarence Darrow once said, ''The pursuit of truth shall set you free -- even if you never catch up with it.''

This photo, I think, demands a second look, even a third to catch up with it. That makes it an adventurous observation, like looking at a big hole in the ground and seeing possibilities instead of emptiness.

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