When you go out, what do you look at? Probably your phone. If you’re out with a camera, what do you look at? Is it the thing you came to take pictures of, or other things (or your phone)?
It can be boring walking around with a camera hoping something will turn up. When it does, it’s often the same old stuff, shot in the same old ways.
So how do you get to (or back to) a state of wonder where everything is unusual? Because if you look with curiosity the world is fascinating.
That might be the answer. I’m a curious person, in both senses. I want to know how everything works. Except people of course, as my wife points out. Which is fine by the way – we compliment each other’s weak spots. But I do seem to spend my time when we’re out going ‘ooh, what’s that?’. What it leads to is me looking everywhere but where I’m going. Which is also fine, by the way – I still manage to dodge the things I shouldn’t step in.
Anyway, the point of this is to ask if it’s possible to develop that curiosity to see things that could be pictures. Or if you want to – I’m not saying this is a good thing and I’m certainly no paragon. But it can be fun. If you have ever had to wander around streets of shops (we will get to do this again, I’m sure) there is more to see than what’s in the windows.
Try looking up. Lots of buildings are older than the shop they contain and the clues are above the shopfront.
Sometimes you have to pretend to be an alien. If you didn’t know what a thing was, what could it be? A book that is very good for this is POET – the psychology of everyday things. It studies the assumptions that are built into objects. Like a door with a big loop handle that you have to push, not pull. (And then go and read my rant about poor design assumptions). But in this case it’s a way of looking at the world around you.
So it makes you think about why the things you see look the way they do. Who decided to do it that way, and why?
Sometimes the alien says ‘how did that get to be there?’ Rather than just assuming that it is. This is the same thing that so annoyed my mum – she bought a film and lent me the family camera for a school trip to France and I came home with pictures of bins.
I do remember how much I enjoyed one aspect of geography at school, and that was being given a map and asked to work out why a town or village came to be where it is. It was usually down to paths and rivers, transport and raw materials. One way of recreating that interest, and another book recommendation, is to have a look at some Gooleys.
But sometimes the weird stuff is just there for the looking.
So next time you’re out, be more alien.