The Familiar

For the past year the places I have been able to visit and photograph have been limited, so very often I have fallen back on subjects closer to home, returning to the same place many times. There is one particular place I have visited regularly since last September. It’s a small park near my home where I would meet with one or more friends depending upon the rules at the time. I always took my camera with me and over the last few months I have photographed almost every aspect of the place; its trees, the benches, the little café (sadly closed for much of the time) and the community garden. And I watched them through the different seasons from leaf fall into deep snow and back into bloom again.

As a photographer the familiar can offer a way of exploring something in depth. If you are not in an area for very long, for example visiting somewhere new for holiday, you won’t have time to explore so some of your photographs might be more of the postcard variety. If you are going to take meaningful photographs you need to understand the place more.

Some photographers specialised in one particular subject for all or part of their career. Eugene Atget, for example, photographed the streets and buildings of Paris, giving us a detailed view of how it looked in his day.

Photographing the familiar can also act as a way of recording time. Nicholas Nixon photographed his wife and her three sisters once a year for forty years, always standing in the same order so you could see how they changed over time.

If you photograph something regularly your relationship to the subject will also change over time. Perhaps you will begin to see it in a different light, literally if you visit it at different times of the day or the year as I was with the little park.

Published by Stephen Taylor

Freelance e-learning developer and instructional designer, photographer and cyclist

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