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  • Writer's pictureVanessa

Hometown Tourist

The Blog Post in Which I Look Harder

Languishing seems to be the word of the year (thanks Adam Grant) and yes, I’m doing it, too.

One antidote is to pick up the camera (sketchbook, notepad, paintbrush...choose your creative tool) and go.

Where? Anywhere.

For a bit of a challenge, though, stay close to home. Even as close as your kitchen or your backyard. A few years back, I read some advice about photography that claimed if one wants to make more exciting photos, one should find more exciting subjects. Most people, it suggested, would rather look at a photo of a lion than a photo of a housecat.

Given that the nearest lion is a lot farther away than my housecat, and that any shot I would make of one - even if lockdown restrictions weren’t a thing - would be difficult to differentiate from any other zoo tourist’s snapshot, I suspect “people” might actually rather look at a well-executed photo of my tabby.

I don’t believe artists need exotic subjects (unless exotic subjects are the specific purpose of their work). Not all of us can, or want, to go on safari in Africa or sail Venetian canals to make pictures. I believe we need fresh eyes, a bit of vision, and our favourite light to make compelling photographs. We need to study the things we’ve seen a million times before to see them in new and exciting ways. This is a skill, and a gift: one we can all develop.

So I walk.

I walked downtown last night, a beautiful summer evening, and tried to look at our familiar buildings differently. How could I change the composition of a picture so it’s not the same shot I (and everyone else) have already made? What to include? What to leave out? It doesn’t always work - many of the resulting pictures are flat, or unbalanced, boring, or too chaotic - but that’s not the point.

The point is that if I’m thoughtfully trying to make pictures of things, then I’m not languishing.

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