Well hello there. Welcome back to the blog. I must take a moment here to thank everyone for all of the notes, comments & emails and to the folks who pulled me aside in person to say something. I was surprised at how many people told me I was brave for being so honest. The whole point of this blog is to be honest. It was meant to help me make sense of thoughts that keep me awake at night. To hear that some of you related to some of the things I was saying was great. It made me feel less crazy to make you feel less crazy.
Ok, so that’s out of the way, on with the new blog! There is a little Facebook blurb going around on some photographer’s pages that says “Once upon a time a photographer was invited to have dinner at the home of a nice couple. During dinner the wife comments to the photographer “Your pictures are beautiful. You must have a great camera.” The photographer nods politely. After finishing dinner the photographer comments to the wife “That was a fine meal. You must have a great stove!”
Of course I find that pretty funny, but here is a little secret. Clearly it’s not the camera, but it’s not being some amazing photographer either. Making a beautiful photo is as simple as adjusting how you see things. Now don’t get me wrong, you can learn to play an instrument but that doesn’t make you a musician. There is a certain skill set to doing what I do with the cameras I use on professional shoots. There are lighting considerations, exposure settings, depth of field, focus ratio, iso settings, composition and a whole slew of stuff I have to pay attention to when I shoot professionally, but the one thing anybody can do is take great pictures. You just have to adjust how you look at things. And that my friends is true of everything in life.
If you are taking pictures, whether its your kids, your pets or you maybe you are an artist looking for better or more creative content for your social media, you probably want share nice photos. Let me be blunt here, if for some reason you don’t care if your photos are good or not trust me when I tell you that the people who are subjected to scrolling past your posts or sitting through the slideshow from your last vacation or your kids performance in a school play will appreciate the fucking effort. And its simple; just try to change your perspective a little.
Here are some examples that I took with my I-phone last night at my desk. These are just a few things that were sitting around me at the moment. I didn’t turn on any lights or do anything special except change the angle I shot each subject. I never even got off my ass. Everything around you can be beautiful or at the very least interesting if you look at it the right way. All you have to do is translate that into the photograph.
See how that works. None of that is groundbreaking photography but just the smallest shift in your position or perspective can completely change the way you see things. Get down a little lower or up a little higher. Get in a little closer and don’t look at everything dead on. Turn off your flash, those things are the devil. Almost nothing looks good shot with flash photography. Especially a phone flash. I mean it. Get out your phone right now and turn off the flash and never under any circumstances turn that hideous thing on again. If its dark, figure out some other way of getting light on it. Move the hell around. Your friends and family will thank you for not posting another picture of them on Facebook where they look like death has face fucked them!
Back when I was living in San Diego, one of my best friends was a girl named Melissa Mayer. She was also a photographer and a painter and a chef…. She is still all of those things. She is one of those just innately creative and talented people. She and I went through this phase of picking one subject and go on these shooting safaris of that thing. Then we would go to the one-hour photo lab, (Yes kids, film…. This was long before any kind of digital cameras.) pick up our prints and go to our favorite bar, sit at the corner order cocktails and compare the photos.
We picked topics like drinking or smoking. We also did tangible things like cows and chairs. We didn’t use fancy cameras; we had these little matching point & shoot things that took that weird 35mm hybrid film. The cameras were super cheap little things, like $30 or $40 bucks. I have a degree in photography but I swear, it’s the hand to God truth, I learned more and grew more as an artist doing those series with Melissa than I did ever in college and maybe even since.
The first chairs were my favorite. We did actually use our good 35 mm SLR’s on that one, but I digress… We went to a coffee shop together and we took turns going in and shooting the chairs. I waited outside & around the corner while she went in shot and then she waited outside for me so that we couldn’t see what the other was doing. When we did our cocktail comparison we sounded something like this “NOOOOOOO”! “SHUT UPPPPP!” “STOP”! “WHAAAAT!” Our minds were blown! We were at the same place at the same time shooting the same single thing but not one photo was the same. I’m sure it was because we both knew that we wanted to get something that the other might miss, but we pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone and the images were stunning. Why we didn’t book a gallery show of that, I’ll never know. ~ Melissa, if you are reading this, why the fuck didn’t we ever book a gallery show of that?
It was a tiny coffee shop and the majority of the chairs were the same and all the tables were set up in a fairly organized way, but looking at our photos, you would almost swear we were at different places. Where one of us shot from high up, the other shot from way low. Where one of us shot tight, the other pulled out wide. Sometimes there would be more of a person or the table in a shot and just a hint of a chair, sometimes the chairs were stark and stood alone.
It opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at everything I saw. It still inspires and drives me today. How can I look at this person or place or object differently than the person standing next to me? That’s it. That’s the whole key to taking better photos. Just change the way you look at things.
I think that is true in every aspect of life, it just takes the smallest shift to find the beauty in the everyday people and things around you. Here is my challenge to you guys this week; pick something, anything, and start looking for the beauty in that thing. Look for a different way to approach it or look at it. Look for unexpected places that it might be or see if you can find it being used in an unexpected way. Start taking photos of it. Send them to me! I want to see what you get. I want you to inspire me to look at something differently. I want to have a “HOLY SHIT!” moment with you!
Hopefully it will inspire you in the way that it inspired me. Hopefully you wont just use it to take better photos but you’ll start seeing lots of things differently. Maybe that scrap of metal is just waiting to be turned into something beautiful. Maybe you’ll rearrange your furniture or remember how much you like the color of your favorite shirt. Maybe you’ll see that boy or girl down the street with new eyes. All of a sudden you’ll be like “Wow, they have really nice…..”. You fill in the blank. For sure take that idea to your mirror. Look at yourself and find at least one thing about your beautiful face that you like. Focus on that thing. Change your perspective, change the angle you look at it and work with that idea. Just like seeing a photograph, once you see the subject differently, everybody else will too.
If I were a good blogger, I would dig through the archives and try to find that first chairs shoot to scan for you but alas, I am lazy and have ADD so you’ll just have to trust me on this one. I did however keep all of those series running for a few years and once photo labs came up with the brilliant idea of giving you a CD with your prints I started getting those so I could put them on my computer. Those I can actually find pretty quick, so here are few photos from the drinkin’ series, the cow series and the chairs series. These were all shot with film, most of them on that cheap little point & shoot. They are many, many years old now so be kind in your critiques.
There is so much beauty around us every day. Sometimes it’s easy to miss. We take things for granted. You are used to just looking at that chair in your living room but when was the last time you really looked at the lines on it? It’s probably a whole lot more beautiful than you realize.
And shout out to one of my favorite pics of my friend Melissa from back in the day! You still inspire me girl! For the rest of you, I mean it. Pick something and send me the pictures!