A common misconception with photography is that the camera should only be used for important or scheduled events, such as planned photography outings, vacations, holidays, or important family functions.
In reality I believe the camera should be used in these situations, as well as in everyday life to interpret the things we see around us. Each of us has different circumstances and a unique daily life experience to be told.
By using a camera to explore our lives on a day-to-day basis we can learn more about common experiences and capture the good and bad around us. The camera in effect becomes a tool and a means of understanding our lives and our environment.
The Convenient Inspiration Project not only stems from the importance of using our camera on a daily basis, but it also stems from the need to practice photography and do the 10,000 hours of work necessary to become proficient with the tool of the trade – the camera.
This 10,000-hour need to master a skill is well documented by the author Malcolm Gladwell in his classic book The Outliers, as well as by many artists.
Another benefit to photographing close at hand subjects is to maintain a sharper photographic vision and be able to get into the zone of making images easily. It is all too easy in our day-to-day lives to become numb to what’s around us.
Familiarity breeds a thought pattern that labels things and prevents us from exploring what’s familiar and interesting. It’s easy to believe that the day-to-day subjects close at hand are uninteresting and lack excitement. In reality however, this is far from the truth.
We, our minds, are conditioned to turn off the familiar, not to visually explore what is the normal. Have you ever noticed when you come back home after a lengthy vacation that your home looks different? You see your home in a different way.
By forcing ourselves to explore with our cameras the ‘normal’ or daily events, we become better at seeing and composing interesting images. Looking hard at the familiar can reveal shapes and patterns that can be well organized in the camera’s frame. We notice the natural light and how it illuminates these subjects, as well as how changing light alters and highlights the subjects.
Becoming good at observation and noticing good light is extremely beneficial for a photographer and their creativity level will rise.
If we only use our camera to photograph the places we travel too infrequently or on dedicated photography trips, then we become visually stale and out of practice. We become unfamiliar with working subjects and finding the best angles.
We lose the ability to see the best our subjects have to offer. Not only do you need to carry out 10,000 hours of making images to achieve success, but also we need to keep our photographic vision sharp. By photographing daily, or frequently, the subjects around you, your vision and eyes will stay sharper.
You will be more likely to make outstanding images during those special vacation locations and during holidays and family functions.
By no means am I alone in this view. Many and most of the big names in photography agree on the need to photograph frequently. This advice is by no means then unique or different. I simple wish to emphasize how important this has been in my development as a photographer.
The images in this project are a few successes in the thousands of images taken close to home. Don’t expect to make wonderful images initially in this exercise, as it takes time to break through the labels and create good and meaningful images.
Freeman Patterson, one of my favorite and most accomplished Canadian photographers, believed in this process and is well understood with his quote.
“Observing things without naming or labeling them is fundamental to all visual art. Labeling, which is seeing with words, interferes with pure observation – with seeing things as they are. Observe items in terms of colors, tones and shapes. Realism and imagination must merge in a clear vision of objects.” – Freeman Patterson
Create a Convenient Inspiration Project for Yourself
In My Backyard represents my travels through my backyard or in close proximity to my home.
In my case the backyard is open farm fields, barn and fencerow forests, surrounding my home in the country. Yes, it is true that I am fortunate to have a big backyard with lots of subject matter, but with frequent walks and visits it too can become the ordinary.
The only real constraint of this project is close proximity and it can be applied in anyone’s direct community and their backyard. We all have life and subject matter near our homes, whether we live in a downtown area, a suburb or in the country. Photographing in this environment practices the principals of working visually and daily.
Being in close proximity and convenience of your backyard, allows easy access with our camera. In My Backyard is a visual documentation of what is close at hand near my home. This project is ongoing and never ending as is my curiosity towards life.
Each season brings new dimensions to old subject matter and the trick is to force yourself into seeing what is familiar around you in new and exciting ways. In doing this we take a sharper eye into the field wherever we photograph.
So grab your camera each and every day, enjoy the process of seeing and creating wonderful images, and start your own self-assigned, In My Backyard project.