The late Diane Arbus once said, ‘The Chinese have a theory that you pass through boredom into fascination and I think it’s true.’ At times we are all guilty of eschewing the everyday in favour of the extraordinary or exotic. We complain that there is nothing to shoot, or that our local patch is not as exciting or visually rewarding as the terrain encountered by travel photographers or landscape enthusiasts. But when we overlook the ordinary we deny ourselves the opportunity to move beyond boredom and reach fresh perspectives. If we take time to explore the familiar, we may be rewarded.
For this exercise, select an object that, at first glance, has little photographic potential – try a toothbrush, coffee cup or a pair of scissors, for example.
- Spend a few minutes studying your object. Have your camera close by, but leave it switched off for now so you can give the subject your undivided attention. Notice any texture, lines, patterns, shapes and shadows.
- View your subject from every angle, including from behind (where possible). Use a mirror to gain an unusual perspective; hold an object up to the light or, if possible, put a light inside it and observe the results.
- Adopt a childlike curiosity. Imagine that you are encountering the object, or location, for the first time. What catches your eye first, and how can you translate these early discoveries into a photograph?
- Pick up your camera and take a few shots. But don’t stop there; when you think you have explored every angle, look a little harder and pass through the boredom – the results could be fascinating.