Beauty surrounds us. Whether you live in the dirtiest and grittiest of cities, a scenic vacation spot, or anywhere else in between. The key is to be open and receptive to the beauty, seeing rather than merely looking.
I remember learning this lesson for the first time in grade school. We were given an assignment to observe the scenery where we lived and write down in our observations. I remember being surprised at finally seeing some of the things that I merely looked at while walking by them. My first true lesson on observing my surroundings.
All throughout my life I've been a visual person. For me, seeing is one of the greatest joys in life.
My first experience with a camera came when I was about 5 years old, using my mom's 110 camera to photograph my Barbie dolls with flowers. Since film was expensive and we were poor, I was only allowed to do this on rare occasions making it a special treat. Next came the Yashica compact camera when I was 14. I'd photograph bands, still lives, relatives, and self portraits. At 18, with the encouragement of a photographer friend, I bought my first SLR camera and I've been obsessed with photography ever since.
Through the years, the high cost of film and developing always hindered my progress. I'd try experimental techniques and write down the technical notes but by the time I would get the money together to process and print the film the moment would be lost and the tech notes may have just as well been written in a foreign language. Progress was slow but I still enjoyed my photography.
Fast forward to 2006 when I purchased my first DSLR camera, which I still use (that's a story for another future blog post.) That's when my love affair with photography was re-ignited and really took off full speed. I will elaborate on the reasons for that in future blog posts. Suffice to say here that being able to shoot without concerns of film and processing costs had freed me to experiment often and shoot subjects that I would have ordinarily just have walked on by without ever taking the time to really appreciate and photograph them.
When I started posting my work to online art galleries, I received comments that made me realize my style and what apparently made my work stand out from some of the others. I was frequently told that I see the uncommon beauty in very common subjects. I had always appreciated the beauty of the common but never really photographed it until I went digital. Prior to going digital, I had always photographed subjects that I believed editors wanted to see. I had always wanted to sell my work and read a lot of photo marketing books in hopes of discovering what photos sell. It resulted in very few sales for me. But since going digital and shooting what I love, I have found that there are a lot of people out there that also enjoy the uncommon beauty in common subjects. And yes, my uncommon photos of those common subjects do sell.
My point with this blog post? Take the time to appreciate the beauty of your locally common subjects. The way the light creates a dance of shadows and patterns across buildings & city streets, the way a pool of rainwater in the gutter reflects distorted images of the surrounding trees, a simple wildflower (a weed!) growing in a store parking lot, a patch of colorful flowers growing in the park, and so much more. If you take the time to see with your soul rather than just merely looking with your eyes, a whole world of new subjects becomes readily apparent.
I hope this blog post inspires you to pick up your camera, even if just a cel phone camera, and capture the uncommon beauty in your common.