What To Photograph When There’s Nothing To Photograph

When I first became interested in photography, I was mostly taking photos on the rare day trip or on longer trips to visit family. My photography was generally associated with travel, though the places I was traveling to weren’t something most people would consider exciting destinations – and it wasn’t very often.

So, part of me wished I could travel to exotic places to take photos of amazing landscapes and cities. I thought where I lived wasn’t that interesting, so most of the photos taken near home were of my family or my cat. That resulted in some good family photos, but I wanted to do more with photography.

At some point I found a book in the library with a few pictures taken by a photographer whose work I found to be a bit of a revelation. The photos were mostly of farmland, though you might not be able to tell that from a distance since they were very abstract and minimalistic – focusing mainly on large areas of color and shape. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the photographer or book, but it inspired me to look more closely at the things I was seeing in everyday life.

I started trying to find colors, shapes, shadows and patterns in my own surroundings. It became less about whether or not the thing being photographed was interesting, and more about if that thing had colors that contrasted well against each other, or had some kind of interesting light/shadow pattern. With that change in perspective I began to have more fun with photography, and felt like I was, in some small way, starting to find beauty in common places.

These photos were taken at an outdoor shopping mall – and while they certainly aren’t going to win any photography awards – I think they are a good example of my early attempts at this:

I’m still working on getting better at finding beauty in the places I’m photographing. I’m happy with those initial attempts, but would like to take photos that aren’t quite so minimalistic and abstract. I’d like to find a good balance between incorporating colors, shapes and patterns while still maintaining a sense of the place being photographed. I’m having fun working towards that goal by trying to take photos everywhere I go, even at a boring laundromat:

I was wrong about there being nothing interesting to photograph near where I lived, and I’m happy to have been wrong about that. Beauty is everywhere, it just takes some effort to see it – and maybe a change in perspective, like I had, to start looking for colors, shapes, patterns or interesting light and shadow.