I believe most successful photographers notice the littlest things.
They perceive shapes, lines, and textures in a way most people will never understand. I’ve heard it said that photography isn’t really about skill at all; It’s about learning to see. You can have the best equipment, but if you miss the precious details, all of that expensive gear means nothing.
I’ve been working on a project I call “Operation Commuter Art.” It came about shortly after I began my downtown gig earlier this year. I felt that I didn’t have as many opportunities to be creative, and I feared that the most authentic part of me was becoming stifled. So, en route to the office every day, while walking from my car or even stopped at a traffic light, I started snapping photos from my phone of things I found beautiful, oftentimes, procuring images of such simple things that they surprised even me with their beauty.
It all began with the following Twitter update: “In an effort to preserve my creative leanings, I hereby declare this Image 1, Day 1 of Operation Commuter Art.” Then, with the hashtag #OperationCommuterArt, I began tweeting my snapshots.
One day, I walked past an abandoned car lot, captivated by the sight of a lone shopping cart. I can’t explain why I returned several minutes later, retracing my steps over two blocks; it seemed so silly at the time. But now, when I look back at that picture, it’s so hauntingly pretty. And I understand the image as a metaphor it was meant to be for me that day: We all have a bit of ugliness in us. But it’s only when we get really close to it and peer at it closely, looking for distinctive shapes and textures, that we begin to see ourselves honestly.
As frivolous as this whole project might seem, it has awakened in me a curiosity I had as a child: buildings, cracks in sidewalks, budding (and soon shedding) trees, even graffiti and litter are again the objects of my fascination. And, through this project, I’m beginning to realize that there is meaning in everything, if we will only just pay attention.