On the weekend just past, I went to a stable and visited some horses. A friend's sister has two horses and I wanted to photograph them because I'm trying to photograph feral species and horses are one of the more destructive feral species in Australia. But there was another reason to visit horses as well, as this person was showing me her horses she asked me if I ride horses 'well no' I said, 'actually horses intimidate me a bit'. I find that most large farm animals: cows, horses, pigs - I always worry they will like charge at me or get angry. It's a bit of a silly thought since they have been bred for millennia to be docile but still, I find them a bit scary!
There is something very different, I think, about seeing something from afar and being close. I've seen people ride, handle, lead and training horses, muster cows and be very comfortable and easy around all of these animals, but when I'm close to them, and their size and weight (and how little I really know about them) becomes more apparent, things just change. An animal that seems maybe small, or easily led, when I'm next to it suddenly seems a lot bigger, stronger and more complex.
Sometimes I wonder 'what is understanding?'. It's sort of a commonly used but somewhat nebulous idea. Is understanding a horse knowing that I can lead it and it will follow? Is understanding a horse being more comfortable that it is larger and stronger than me? Is understanding the feeling of comfort that comes after some exposure and learning? Is it the textbook, or the doing it all? For me, I don't think I understand things until I interact with them. For something like a horse, cow, goat, snake, spider or tree this means being close enough to actually look and appraise. For something like a car, I don't really know it until I drive it. For something like an exhibition, I don't really understand it until I make it.
In Education we don't really know what understanding is. Famously, Bloom's Taxonomy was a way to try and define different depths of knowledge or ability about a given topic. In this 'understanding' was the 2nd step (eg, 2nd least deep form of knowing), and is essentially someone's ability to explain things. But, I think I can explain something like ink (coloured liquid that marks a surface), but I don't really understand it - why is it the colour it is, why do some sink into the paper and others take ages to dry, how long will ink be shelf stable, is ink toxic?