Look, Then Look Deeper
Of course, we don’t have to travel to change perspective. The key is to make sure that you continuously view the world around you with fresh eyes. Try looking from a different point of view. Get down low or climb up high. Get close to a subject, then back away. Look at the quality and quantity of light and study the shadows. Look for reflections; notice where lights converge and subjects overlap. Pay attention to negative and positive space. Scrutinize your surroundings and take note of the details. The more “present” you are, the more you will see.
Try staying at one location for one hour and make ten photographs of different things. Then make ten different photographs of the same thing. Forcing ourselves to slow down and analyze the world around us provides new insights and opens new doors.
I have a habit of walking around my neighborhood in the morning. I collect things that I see on my journey—interesting twigs, seedpods, even metal coat hangers (I’m astonished at how many of the twisted hanger tops I have found over the years). I don’t typically know exactly how I will use them when I find them, but over the years I’ve photographed many of the objects, incorporated others in my encaustic paintings, and even decorated the planting beds in my gardens with them.
Sometimes I give myself assignments for the morning walk. I’ll look in my journal for ideas, and then try to find examples of those concepts when I walk. I might choose a word, like “resilient,” and then try to find examples of how resilient nature can be and photograph them—weeds growing up through the sidewalks, trees overtaking a side-yard, and insects building their homes within an abandoned structure. When I encourage myself to look at things more closely as I walk by an empty lot, I find myself wondering what world is contained in that space that I walk by every day and don’t even notice. If I really look, how much life would I find in a shovelful of earth or the branch of a tree? Nature is a source of infinite variation and inspiration. Make the time to study and take in its beauty.
Queensland, Australia, 2012
- The more one looks, the more one sees. And the more one sees, the better one knows where to look.
- —TEILHARD DE CHARDIN
I constantly observe the way other people capture the world around them, as well. I look at photographs anywhere I can—in books, online, in museums and galleries. By studying other photographers’ work, I have learned a great deal about what I feel makes a successful image, from content to composition to lighting. I look at other sources of imaging, such as alternative light sources (infra-red and ultraviolet), chemical-based processes, scanning microscopy, and molecular science. They all have the potential to influence my photography and generate new ideas.
I try to stay well rounded by looking at other mediums of art—sculpture, painting, fiber, installation—from different cultures around the world, today and throughout history. Inspiration can come from anything—a piece of music that kindles the imagination, the beauty of a well-built piece of furniture that brings us joy, or a simple, thoughtfully prepared home-cooked meal that comforts our soul.