Finding inspiration in our own backyard

ant-papaya-tree2Sometimes we can forget that we don’t need to go far to find something captivating to shoot. Last week, while being weighed down by office work, I found inspiration from a least expected place–a papaya tree.

I often find myself sitting in front of the computer for hours, editing, uploading and doing website optimizing. I try not to spend full days doing this, but sometimes it’s inevitable. It’s in these long days that I feel the creative juice leaking out of me. I’m tunneled into what I’m doing and that’s it.

As Freeman Patterson states in his book, Photography and the Art of Seeing, “preoccupation with self is the greatest barrier to seeing, and the hardest one to break.” I have recently felt this statement to be true in life and started some simple daily acts to help prevent this barrier to seeing. One of them being to take my camera and explore something new to shoot.

Last week, I took an hour away from my busy day and looked for something to shoot in my backyard. To my surprise I found more than one interesting subject. I ended up spending more than two hours shooting and had some interesting images in the end. However, what’s most important is I felt inspired and full of creative energy after the shoot.

Freeman Patterson says, “one barrier to seeing is the mass stimuli surrounding us. We are so bombarded with visual and other stimuli that we must block out most of them in order to cope. Instead of seeing everything, we select a few stimuli and organize these. Then once we have achieved order in our lives, we stick with the realities we have established. We seldom try to rediscover the possible value of ignored stimuli, and are reluctant to do so as long as the old ones still seem to be working. We develop a tunnel vision, which gives us a clear view of the rut ahead of us, but prevents us from seeing the world around us.”

He goes on to say, “a photographer who wants to see, a photographer who wants to make fine images, must recognize the value of the familiar. Your ability to see is not increased by the distance you put between yourself and your home. If you do not see what is all around you everyday, what will you see when you go to Tangiers? The subject matter may be different, but unless you can get to the essence of the subject matter through keen observation, and express it through your photographs, it doesn’t matter how exotic your locale.”

Some great words of advice that I hope to return to often.

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Tagged: Freeman Patterson, images, inspiration, papaya tree, photography, shoot,
Posted on: May 27, 2009


  • Erin Cavanaugh

    Yes these are great words of advice! I’m going to have to read the book