Something all photographers feel from time to time, especially when first starting out, is a lack of inspiring compositions in their own town. “My neighborhood is boring. There’s nothing interesting to photograph.” Sound familiar? I think the reason we feel this way is because we assume good photography is scenes of poverty, or beautiful landscapes. I’ve found that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes all you need is a photo-walk around the block.
Making Due with what’s Right in Front of You
A lot of well known photographers have work that revolves around their town, their neighborhood, or even their front yard. Raymond Meeks’ book Ciprian Honey Cathedral focuses on his home, Lora Webb Nichols Encampment Wyoming features her town, and Robert Adams’ Standing Still studies his front yard.
When we look at these works, we may not have a personal attachment to the location, but we feel something for a way of living that doesn’t exist anymore. A landscape that may not look the way it once did. Photography can be like a fine wine, it gains value over time. Taking photos of your neighborhood may not look interesting right now, but in time when that landscape changes, it will be valuable.
Around the Block
During the summer months here in Florida, which is most of the year, the heat makes it difficult to go outdoors. Sometimes the humidity is so thick I feel like I can’t breath. It can be frustrating when wanting to just go out and take photos. However, I try to make it a habit to go out in the morning and in the evening when it’s not as bad.
Sometimes Kelsey and I can get a walk in on the weekends, and I always make sure I bring a camera with me. Even if you think you have seen everything there is to see in your neighborhood, you just never know what will be there next time. Especially if time passes between walks, you can be shocked by the changes that take place outside your door without you noticing.
One evening as Kelsey and I took a walk around our block, I looked down at the ever growing cracks in the asphalt and told her that I wondered how the streets of this neighborhood will look ten years from now. I don’t think the city will ever come and repave them, so will they become rubble? I looked around and started to notice the decay of the homes around us. They weren’t like that 15 years ago when I first moved to this neighborhood. Too bad I didn’t photograph it then.
There’s a street corner that has impressions of sneaker prints in the cement, and it always makes me wonder when that happened. How did it happen? Did they lay the cement, and then someone taking a walk unknowingly walked through it? There’s some initials imprinted with a heart, which makes me wonder if this was once a bus stop where kids waited.
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Even the foliage is always changing. In my particular area, homes are being raised all around. Lots with trees and shrubs are being mowed down and the landscape is evolving into something else.
The fact is, no matter how small you feel your town is, your neighborhood is still an important piece of fabric in the grand scheme of things. It is still a factor in something much larger.
Even if my photos never become important to the public, they will have value to me. That’s because my memories are here where my life exists. My memories are in other neighborhoods where I once lived. I wish I had pictures of them as well because those memories are growing a little fuzzy.
I wanted to write this article to help motivate those of us who can’t get to the heart of the action. All photography has value to someone. At the very least, bringing your camera along on a photo-walk around the block is good practice.
Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.