Sometimes I forget the wealth of places waiting to be discovered just outside my door when I am travelling. The thought of exploring New York city, Iceland, California, Montreal, Marrakech and other places seem sometimes to be far more exciting than seeing what’s outside my front door.
Does this ever happen to you?
The reason I’m asking is because, right now, I’m back in my homeland of New Zealand. And even in familiar places I feel like I am seeing things for the first time. There are photographs I have taken during this visit that I have never taken before.
I have driven through this area, and ridden through it on my bike, more times than I can remember. Never once before had I stopped for a photograph.
This got me thinking about how I see things… about how I might go about photographing a place I have lived, and known, in a new and different way.
Because sometimes, even when living in London, I can go for days without finding anything ‘interesting’ to photograph. Yet, I know there are probably people all around the world who would love to see and photograph London, just like there are Londoners who dream of seeing and photographing other places.
Monet painted over 15 paintings of haystacks. They were all near his home, just at different times of year, in different light. The famous water lilies were also not far from where he lived. Kevin Day, who I have been introduced to recently, has been taking photographs of the same dead tree for over five years with exquisite results. I’m sure there are a heap of other artists around who also find inspiration close to where they live.
I think that something really personal and intimate can happen when we know a place. When we have lived there a while and it becomes very meaningful to us. To me, that adds an extra element to any art we create; almost like a part of ourselves is integrated into it. And we can then take that vision of seeing the extraordinary in our own hometown to every other place we explore.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
- Marcel Proust
So, how do we go about changing our vision in order to see the beauty in where we live?
Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ll share with you a few of the things I’ve been trying out:
- Rather than photographing big landscapes, try capturing tiny details
- If photographing at standing height is your normal thing, try getting lower down, or being higher up
- Look up
- Or down
- Photograph things out of focus; or over (or under) exposed
- If continually photographing the same subjects (family, flowers, landscapes etc.), try a different subject. Maybe graffiti, or what you had for lunch, the hands of a friend having coffee with you, an interesting window…
- Go out on grey days. It’s like having a giant diffuser in the sky
- Take a walk somewhere you’ve never been. What do you see?
- Think about places you might take a visitor. What are the sights you would most want them to see (aside from the usual touristy places)?
Have you ever tried this? Do you have any other suggestions for gypsy girls guide readers?
Would you like to give it a go?
It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have – a phone camera, a little point-and-shoot, a DSLR, film, whatever. The vision, seeing something new in a familiar place, is the objective.
I’d love for you to share what you find, by linking to your blog, or your photos online. I am excited to see your neighbourhood through your eyes.
Leonie Wise is a regular contributor to Gypsy Girl’s Guide.