Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Looking for themes: Circles

The way I collect "fodder" for this blog is that whenever I prep a photo, if I think it's something I might use later in the blog, I put it in a folder along with all its other unpublished buddies until I see a theme or I see something worth showing or talking about.

These pictures have been languishing in the fodder file for a long time and it's time to get them out, discussed, and then put away.

You create themes in your work by 1) actively seeking out photo possibilities and/or by 2) rummaging around in your files and just seeing what you have.

I ran a photo motivation project for awhile, giving people weekly assignments. I've also conducted online photo classes where students are out there looking for complementary colors for a couple of weeks, diagonal lines for a few weeks, etc. They were actively pursuing photographic ideas.

Once you've been out there looking for subjects, you might be surprised by how many photos you've already taken of those subjects.

Like these five photos. What they have in common is that the subject matter is circles, or circular things.

The sun photo, taken in a friend's back yard, is an obvious choice to depict the concept of circles.

And a silver button, threaded and then tied around a rock I found on the beach, is another "in your face" picture of a circle.

Coiled ropes on a dock form very tidy circles, filling the frame with not only their circularity, but there's a big diagonal line that forms a dark triangle in the lower left of the frame. This makes me, a trianglephile, very happy.

Sometimes circles aren't quite so obvious. I look for letters whenever I'm out and about, so the letter "O" spray painted on the side of a railroad car caught my eye. Sure, an "O" is a circle, but I was going for a letter, and "circle" didn't enter my mind, until right now.

And finally the center of this opium poppy screams "circle," but I didn't hear that scream until I began rummaging through the blog photo file discovering circular subjects. I was seeing "flower." I didn't know at first I was also seeing "circle."

What's my point? I'm not sure. . . I think my point is that recognizing themes in our work is important. Why? Because it forces us to pay attention to what we are seeing and what we have created. The key words being PAY ATTENTION.

We are photographers. We see. We notice. Not just at the time we press the shutter, but later, maybe years later, as we examine our body of work.

What are your themes? Rust? Agave spikes? Weathered barns? Boats?

A friend of mine is working on the concept of "edges." With that in mind, she can go back through her entire portfolio and see her photos with new eyes. Maybe she's got some "edges" she never knew she had. And now she's got the motivation to shoot more, to perhaps make a cohesive package of "edge" photos. Perhaps a book.

Where's YOUR book? What are YOUR themes? Take a look. Either pick a subject and go out and photograph it. Or begin riffling through your images, seeing what you have. You may surprise yourself. And all it takes is paying just a little bit of attention . . .

©Carol Leigh