The times are a changin’. The turret of media coverage may be leaving wounds of widespread social anxiety, but if there’s anything more contagious than a virus, it’s inspiration. Spread it by exploring these photography assignments from home and sharing your best photos from them.
Words by Aaron Chapman
As the world enters a new reality of closed doors, bridges and runways, those wielding cameras are left wondering how we’ll expend our photographic energy if we’re not allowed outside. No more street photography. No more landscapes. No more pictures of people. No more pictures.
Though opportunities to pursue these photographic forms may be limited in the coming days, weeks, months, let’s observe how this pandemic forces our creative hand by challenging ourselves to make pictures at home.
Here’s a few ways to stay motivated, develop new work and maintain camera muscle memory from the confines of your residence.
“In my youth, I thought travel was the only way I could find inspiration.”
Document Your Home
In my youth, I thought travel was the only way I could find inspiration to write or photograph but I’ve spent the years since realising that inspiration is everywhere. I look across at my bookshelf and see Larry Sultan’s seminal publication Pictures from Home (published by MACK), its Christmas-coloured spine overhanging the shelf by an inch. Sultan’s Picture from Home, is the pinnacle of proof that inspiration is often found closest to home.
The book is the product of Sultan’s personal visual memoir and examination of his very own ‘American family’. Sultan spent years photographing his parents in their family home, composing a narrative bordering fiction, a recipe of family that could only be made with Sultan’s ingredients of equal parts intimacy and distance. In an interview with the New Yorker he spoke of his motivation to create the series, saying that beyond taking a few good pictures, “is the wish to take photography literally. To stop time. I want my parents to live forever.”
“Create a visual diary of your existence within those walls.”
Look at your home anew as a place where inspiration bounds. Who’s there with you — friends, family? Ask if they wouldn’t mind you photographing them. If you’re home alone, what’s there with you — favourite books, travel souvenirs, reading corners? Create a visual diary of your existence within those walls as a visual snapshot of life as it is, at this point in time.
Whether it’s on a phone or an 8×10 large format camera, at one point or another, every photographer should try to capture their own likeness. Stephen Shore, most recognised for his large format reproductions of the American social landscape, staged an intimate self-portrait in the bedroom of his New York apartment. And Vivian Maier, renowned American street photographer, prolifically turned the camera on her own reflection while roaming around Chicago throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s.
“The level of introspection you’ll gain from taking self-portraits is an important undertaking in the photographer’s journey.”
Since we’re expected to be spending a little more time at home, it’s your turn to have a good hard look at yourself. Grab a tripod or a stack of books and set-up your camera’s self-timer.
In your current homebound setting, how can you photograph yourself in a unique way? Think about materials and household props like curtains and lounges. Spend some time observing the way light moves through your home. When’s the best time of day to photograph yourself? What will your gesture and expression be?
The level of introspection you’ll gain from taking self-portraits is an important undertaking in the photographer’s journey, and can build an understanding of what our subjects endure when we’re behind the lens directing.
Rephotography is a technique most often used to show the passage of time. It involves photographing something or someone, and then taking the same photo again at a different time, be it time of day or different day altogether.
Ethan Aaro Jones is a Minnesota based photographer who produced a body of work titled 100 Washington Square. Its premise? 100 photographs of 100 Washington Square in Downtown Minneapolis, all taken from the balcony of his apartment. The 100 photographs show how the Minnesotan landscape changes through seasons. Blue hour, this photo. Summer sun, that. Evening snowfall, this. Foggy winter, that. By photographing the one subject again and again, we see how time moves across the face of its subject, throwing the building deep into the background or bringing it towards us depending on light, time and weather.
“Creating parameters around your process of documentation will assist with motivation to keep up an ongoing project like this.”
Plan a home rephotography project that requires you to photograph something or someone either once a day for however long you wish, or photograph a subject several times a day for one day only.
What can you photograph from home? Is there a car park across the way? What can you photograph from your balcony or backyard? Or if you don’t have a window with a view, create a window to your world by photographing something inside each day.
Creating parameters around your process of documentation will assist with motivation to keep up an ongoing project like this. For example, I’m currently surveying the many golden silk-orb weaver spiders making homes around my house and I will only photograph one when I notice the afternoon sun glinting in its web. But if I miss a day, it doesn’t matter. I know the spiders will still be there tomorrow (unfortunately).
Determine a process that works best for you.
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