Seize the Time to Create My Canon 1V has fresh batteries, my vehicle was running great and I’d just received a shipment of 35mm film (Kodak Portra, of course)…the day was mine. On top of that, the fall color is looking like someone increased the …
My camera bag is loaded with rolls of 35mm film and my lodging for LeDuc’s Creekside Motel in Cheboygan, MI is booked; let’s do some street photography. Mackinaw City was my focus on this photo excursion and weekend of village voyaging, but to maximize my …
House photography can be extremely rewarding and fun. When I’m scrolling through the rabbit hole that is Instagram, I find myself stopping quite often at pictures that are the homes of others. Some are mid-century modern, others are of the extremely banal variety. Some have yards of trash and others are creepily neat. Over the years, I’ve found myself to also be involved in the making of such images. Occasionally, there’s a home, house or structure—maybe it’s all three—that begs to be photographed. Street photography conjures up images of walking through New York City, capture the bustle of life and the characters that fill the sidewalks in that storied city. To me though—it could be my small-town upbringing coming through here—street photography is quite inclusive of a ton of subject matter, including houses.
With street photography of any kind, care must be taken to show respect and obedience of the law for people, places AND things, and houses. So, intrepid street walker with camera in hand, make sure to stay on public places, and avoid private property (unless permission is obtained of course) when photographing.
Some of the first work that introduced me and inspired me to photograph homes and houses was by photographer Robert Adams. For some masterfully photographed work, check out a collection of Adams’s called “Denver“. The photographs in the collection are beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, but there’s something about the passage of time that also plays an important role. Adams photographed his material and the subjects and homes in his photographs were of the period. They weren’t old when he photographed. As you can see in fact, a lot of the homes in his photos were being built as he was photographing. When I see an old car or house, I’m the first to admit I’ll be there photographing, I can’t resist. However, I’m frequently photographing current subject matter as well because over time, the photographs I make will become even more interesting as the photos will serve the purpose as a record of a specific time.
One of my favorite aspects of house photography is that they tell a story. What I find inspiring is that certain regions have certain types of houses. There are, of course, exceptions to this. Some districts and streets have that crazy neighbor living in a home that looks like it never was, and never will be, acceptable for any home-building code. It doesn’t matter what your reason is to photograph, it’s your reason and that’s all that’s needed.
Simply Walk and Do It
The way to start photographing houses is to do it. I used to photograph houses that had the blinds drawn, it felt like a way to satisfy my house-photography craving while not disturbing the house’s tenants. Then, a house that was quite perfectly, beautifully boring arrived into my field of view. The front window was wide open and there were some books on the ledge. The scene appealed to me greatly and I’ve been trying to not think about things too much when I receive that photo vibe. If something tinges in me to photograph something, I photograph it. Otherwise, it could bug me later and I’m there with a camera so why not.
At first, it can be slightly uncomfortable to participate in this style of photography because it’s new and possibly unusual to you. However, just like anything in photography and life, the more you do it and practice, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more improved you’ll become. Plus, it’s art and the prospect of photographing something because of a burning desire to do so, and seeing the results later, has always thrilled me.
Now, I find myself photographing more and more houses and I try to photograph them with the windows unblocked by drapes because I want the homes that look lived in. Sometimes, the owner of a house will ask what I’m doing but my experiences thus far have been positive. In fact, my conversations with people while photographing almost always lead to new photographic avenues and ideas. Care must be taken at all times, of course, and one must have a great deal of knowledge in regards to the neighborhood you’re photographing in. Always try to make sure you’re photographing as safely and legally as possible. It’s important too, to be quick about it.
In the springtime, I’d photographed subjects, places and people relating to the coronavirus. Those photos were self assigned, as I wanted to visually document what I could during that time. The benefits of self assigning myself that work was that I had the convenience of …
First of all, here’s to everyone staying as sane and grounded as possible, despite the shakeup of our daily lives. My hope is that for each of you, this shakeup has been as minimal as possible. We’re all doing our best and however you’re adjusting …
Outside my window, as I’m typing this, is the same towering oak tree and beneath it are the same constantly-stopping-and-going squirrels continuing their daily routine of finding acorns and burying them. The normalcy of life is visually evident and that makes everything going on in the world, regarding the coronavirus, a stark contrast to our every day. In a tremendously short span of time, people have lost jobs while others have been thrust onto the front lines of this pandemic battle; it’s been dizzying to say the absolute least.
Thoughts of Meg, friends, family, making ends meet and staying healthy are all at the top of my priorities. Photography has been among my thoughts too, of course, because it’s not just a hobby for me but also a way to process the world and to create. Many people have been quarantined and this has shifted how we create. Despite the quarantine, there have been some incredible photographers who’ve made pictures in their dwellings and posted them to Instagram. Thomas Prior is one such example; an unbelievably talented photographer who continuously makes compelling, beautiful photos. There have also been photographers, such as Dan Tom, who’ve used the time to post archived photos. If you want to be creative with pictures or anything for that matter, you can do it. It’s a perfect time to use your time—whatever time you can make— and grow as a person, creative and/or photographer.
With the world paying attention to COVID-19, it’s important to me to document it. Northern Michigan is tucked away—it’s full of natural beauty and because of where it’s located, is more of a destination than a stopover to somewhere—and it’s where I’m based so my goal has been to localize the coronavirus with pictures. The stakes are different now though and carelessness isn’t an option; before I leave the house I repeat to myself the importance of not touching anything, especially my face, and keeping the proper six-foot social distance from others. After my personal safety talk, I try to have a loose plan of what to photograph while always remaining flexible to visual opportunities that present themselves.
There are people working in many capacities and occupations right now who continue to do so despite the current environment. Grocery store employees are one segment of workers who not only come into contact with many people, but their role in us obtaining food is vital, especially now. A local grocery store chain was my first stop so I walked in and asked to speak to a manager about my project idea. My objective was to simply have at least one employee stocking any type of food. The main point of my pitch to the grocery store management was that I was focusing on the value of grocery store employees during the pandemic. Pro Tip: As I’ve said before, it’s imperative to be truthful in your approach. I often photograph without assignments so I usually don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’m on assignment for… .” Therefore, I find a straightforward, honest approach is the way to go. Access was granted, as long as I was received permission from my subject(s), so all was good. The first person I asked was not comfortable about being photographed so I said, “No problem, thank you.” The second person I asked, Jeremy, was more than cooperative so I went to work and captured an image of him stocking shelves that I was pleased with.
Next, there’s a marquee above a movie theater downtown that acknowledges safety tips so I went there and waited for a person to walk by in order to include a human element. When time allows, I try to include a person in order to add visual interest to pictures. There was a biting wind traveling through downtown—the kind that makes you question whether your windproof jacket is really windproof—and there weren’t many people walking around but eventually, in the distance, there was a man walking in my direction. This is another bonus because I’d much rather have the front of someone than the back of someone, I think it looks better. Plus, the James Bond poster couldn’t have had a more appropriate title or be placed in a more perfect spot.
Finally, since so many businesses were closed, I wanted to capture some of the ‘closed’ signs on store doors. I wanted to make sure the photos I made were of signs that specified coronavirus or COVID-19 or something interesting and unique, so that it’d be recognizable and unique compared to just a store being closed at any other point for any other reason. There was one sign that had written, “We will all get through this,” which is ideal, photographically, because that’s a dramatic closing sign. The next store had “coronavirus pandemic” on it which is also the specificity I was looking for.
It’s impossible for me to close this post without thanking anyone out there who’s currently working to make the world a better place, in any way possible. Also, if life is challenging for you as it is for many of us, my heart goes out to you and perhaps find peace in that every one of us, around the world, are in this together.
It always makes me proud to love the world somehow- hate’s so easy compared.Jack Kerouac