In a recent discussion about creativity, club member Sue Carey said:
It is not only, or always, the most exotic trip, or the most Photoshopped photo that has the greatest impact. One does not have to risk life and limb in the winter, or go on exotic trips, to ‘get the shot’. It may encourage all members to look and play with their camera, within a meter of where they are.
Sue recommended this exercise from Freeman Patterson to stimulate creativity:
The best place in the world to SEE is wherever you are.
Time and again I’ve had somebody ask me the question “Where’s a good place to make pictures?” The translation is: “Where can I photograph my preconceptions?” Answering this question is one of the best ways I know to stand still creatively. It’s rather like taking a bus tour to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms without ever having noticed the beauty of the wild flowers (weeds) in your back yard.
Long ago I came to realize that a good, simple exercise for improving a person’s ability to see is to ask a friend to pick a number, let’s say between 20 and 50 (perhaps 36) and a direction “left,” “right,” or “straight ahead,” then to take 36 steps in the given direction and stop. Using your camera or your smartphone make a minimum of 30 thoughtful compositions in that place (staying within a circle no wider than a metre.) Beginning is easy, as you’ll photograph things you always notice in ways you always see them. However, if you feel like tearing out your hair after struggling to “see” more than 15 or 18 good pictures, you can be almost certain that persisting will reward you with a visual breakthrough.
You have to get on the other side of your normal ways of seeing, to challenge your perfectly natural need to label everything in order to see what’s there, to see in ways you’ve never seen before.
The challenge is often hard, but the achievement is always exhilarating. Give this exercise a serious try at least once a month – especially right around home where everything is so familiar you don’t see it. This is a great exercise, not just for photographers, but for everybody who wants to be more observant.
I made the photograph on page one and the three that follow at spots I move through so often that, every now and then, I make a conscious effort to observe them carefully in order to “see” what normally doesn’t register at all.
Thanks to Freeman Patterson for permission to use the above quote from his IMAGES, IDEAS, and REFLECTIONS Periodical Letter #6 March 2019. For more ideas and images from him, check out his website.