Monday, February 11, 2019

The Extraordinary Ordinary


"Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph.
Find the ordinary objects so you can
transform them by photographing them."

- Morley Baer (1916 - 1995)

Postscript. When I do photography (that is, when I am lucky enough to have some time to squeeze photography in between my day-job responsibilities), I am decked out with the usual "photographer's paraphernalia" (i.e., camera + vertical grip, tripod, an assortment of lenses, filters, ...). For subject matter, almost without exception, I find myself either perusing landscapes in a local park (that I know the trails of about as well as I know the layout of my home), or exploring color light abstractions in a make-shift studio I've built in my basement. The exceptions are when traveling with my family (when I do essentially the same thing anyway - photographically speaking - but just don't know the trails as well:), and when not in possession of my "real" camera or the bag-full-of-paraphernalia that accompanies it. 

While all photographers strive to transform the "ordinary into the extraordinary" (ala Morley Baer's admonition, and in deference to Minor White's dictum to take pictures of "what else" a thing is), it is often the case that just recognizing that something is sufficiently "ordinary" to warrant training one's camera on is itself hard enough, let alone the task of transforming that "ordinary thing" into something "else." A (far from original) trick I use is to force myself into a more receptive frame-of-mind by deliberately not having my camera at the ready. When the (clich├ęd) "best camera is the one you're carrying" is not my usual "go to" camera of choice, my mind's eye is free to discover (perhaps otherwise invisible?) patterns, realities, and the myriad extraordinary ordinary things we spend our lives immersed in.

And so, the "rest of the story" behind the images you see assembled in the 3-by-3 polyptych shown above, is that these are some recent examples of the magical "extraordinary ordinary" reality that my iPhone - not my Nikon D810 - consistently and generously reveals to me. The more banal descriptions of what these images are really images of, are, in no particular order: staircases in the building I work in 5 days a week, lights at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (in Washington, DC), the ceiling at a Department for Motor Vehicles service center, light fixtures at a local Mall and restaurant, and a skylight at a supermarket. The extraordinary ordinary indeed.

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