the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

JUST OUT OF SIGHT

By MICHAEL PERKINS

PART OF THE EVOLUTION OF A PHOTOGRAPHER’S EYE is the imparting of new importance to things we have forgotten to see, those everyday objects that line or border our rituals and our daily to-and-froms, but which gradually are rendered invisible because our gaze is focused elsewhere. We fix upon the subway train that we have to catch, but miss the miniature tales buried in brick, steel, rust, entrances and exits. We’ve been down this street a million times, and always pause to peer in the window of, in order, the bakery, the newsstand, the Chinese take-out joint. Across the same street are a dry cleaner, a watch repair shop, and a storefront cathedral. We have never seen them.

Photography involves extracting stories where others see a blank slate, but that means first training ourselves to constantly re-see the things we believe we “know”, only to find that there are stunning revelations mere inches away from those known things.  It’s the hardest habit to cultivate, this revealing of new layers in what we assume is the familiar. And yet it’s really the fresh blood that rejuvenates our art when it’s gone anemic.

One trick I try more often than I used to is to pause, after entering a building, to look back at the other side of that entrance…in other words, the view I would see facing me if I were using that entrance as an exit. It’s a very simply thing, but frequently there’s something fresh that presents itself, in something I believed I knew all about.

Flights Of Fancy, right under our wing....ah, nose.

Flights of fancy, right under our wing….ah, nose.

The above image comes from such an exercise. It’s taken just inside the main entrance to the Brooklyn Public Library, which, as you can see, has a great Art Deco grille of storybook characters over the door. But that’s just as you walk in. Pay equal attention when you’re walking out, and you see a strange bird looming over the entrance (now your exit). But not just any bird. It is, in fact, a rescued statue which once graced the main lobby of the long-departed Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, out of its old context as a symbol of high-flying journalism, but now a reminder of one of the city’s best voices. Best of all, the late afternoon sun projects the silhouettes of the storybook grille onto the eagle and the adjacent wall in an unearthly display of shadow. It’s worth looking back at. Or I could say I am always looking forward to looking back at it.

When looking for something new to photograph, seek out the places in which you’ve seen it all. You’ll never be happier to be proven wrong.

 

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4 responses

  1. So true… Sometimes a differnet angle, order, companion, time of day or year can provide a needed change of perspective. http://www.lookingwithalens.wordpress.com

    November 29, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    • Just as no two pictures are truly alike, no two moments for picture-taking are identical. Thanks for coming to see us.

      November 30, 2015 at 6:38 PM

  2. I like your “trick” aftering entering to look back. Good idea and one I’ll implement myself!

    November 30, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    • Like all effective tricks, it’s pretty simple…and yet the results it opens up can be gratifying. Thanks for your visit and your comment!

      November 30, 2015 at 6:37 PM

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