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Something From Nothing | Photographing the Familiar

Photographing the things that are the most familiar to us can often be one of the most difficult things to do. As a photographer who takes a lot of inspiration from being able to travel, the past year and a half have presented unique challenges to creating new photographs.


Florence Italy from Fiesole, 2018, Tachihara 4x5 Field Camera, T-Max 400 Film
Florence Italy from Fiesole, 2018, Tachihara 4x5 Field Camera, T-Max 400 Film


If you’re like me, you’ve been spending a lot of time at or around your home over the last year and a half. Additionally, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been trying to use this time to work on your skills as an artist. Often, I will take my camera with me while I go for walks in the morning or after work. It has been a good way to help me relax and stay focused. Walking the same routes, looking at the same buildings, the same trees, the same houses every time I go out. The more I see the same things, the harder it can feel to take a photograph that feels interesting or engaging. However, I think photographing the things that are familiar to me has forced me to look at things differently and to approach photography from different angles. In this article, I’d like to share a few thoughts on how I’ve re-examined how I make photographs.



Downtown Cleveland, March 2021, Sony A7R IV, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens
Downtown Cleveland, March 2021, Sony A7R IV, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens

Don’t be afraid to edit your images in different ways than you normally would, taking a photograph with a specific way in mind of how you would like to edit it once you’re home can be a good way to inspire you to try things you wouldn’t normally do. Don’t be afraid to crop something to a square or a long rectangle if you feel that it helps the composition or the message you are trying to portray in your image. It’s okay if it doesn’t work, you don’t need to show anyone and you don’t need to keep the image. This method has helped me develop a series of photographs of abstract architectural facades. I realize this doesn’t apply to all genres of photography. Stricter forms of photography such as documentary photography rely on having the integrity of an unaltered and often uncropped image. But in this case, I believe it is fine. Have fun with it!





Give yourself creative limitations, but don’t be too strict about it. Limit yourself to one lens, one camera, a cellphone, etc. Lately I’ve been using my Sony a7R IV with a Sony Sonar 55mm f1.8 lens and a Galaxy Note 10+. I almost always have these two cameras with me wherever I go and have had great results with both. The above image is a photogravure etching made from a cellphone photograph.



Lastly, try photographing a subject matter that you don't normally take photographs of. For me, that would be portraiture. People will sometimes appear in my work but they're not usually the primary subject matter and are shown in the context of their environment.



Self Portrait, 2021, Sony A7R IV, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens
Self Portrait, 2021, Sony A7R IV, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens




Thanks for taking the time to read this article, if you enjoyed it please feel free to share it or let me know what you think. This is a new venture for me and I hope to use this platform to share my knowledge and experience as a photographer and to use it to grow in my own creative endeavors.