Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sense of Wonder

Lately, I have been reading a lot of photography books of the coffee table variety. By reading, I mean I have been reading the Foreword and the After Thoughts and the captions, but I have also been reading the actual photographs.

In almost every photography class or workshop that I have ever taken, the instructor recommends to "study the masters", sit down with other photographers' work. By studying others, I will find myself in certain aspects of their work. The problem is that I rarely found this to be true.

Before our vacation in April, I was at the library looking for a good book to take along. I decided to wander over to the non-fiction side, maybe find a book of poetry to bring as well. But instead of turning right to the poetry aisle, I felt myself pulled left to the photography section. I had been down this aisle before, and had even checked out books, but they were always from the "suggested" list of masters. They were usually returned before they were due.

Scanning the shelves, I decided to let Titles and Covers be my guide instead of suggested lists. The above book got me with both title and cover. This might be me.

The best part of this book besides the subject matter was that it was a collection of a couple dozen different photographers. I was bound to find a few that resonated with me. And I did, six of the photographers in the book had work that drew me in, and made me want to stay. Even the photographers' work that didn't resonate was helpful, because it showed me things that didn't speak to me or unsettled me, and I was able to figure out why.

The light bulb moment came when I turned to this two page layout. Photographer David Husom photographed county fair buildings in the 1980's through the 1990's. These two buildings couldn't have been more perfectly paired for me to analyze. While the one on the left had elements I liked: typography, painted white wood, and little pops of red. It is the brick building on the right that made me want to walk into the photograph and explore.

This one held me at arm's length. I wasn't close enough to catch glimpses of the inside to see what mysteries it might hold. There wasn't enough intriguing detail to make me want to stay. This was taken in bright sun, not my favorite time of day.

Now this one. First, I feel I am standing on the street right in front of it. The open doorway gives me glimpses of what's inside. I want to see what those windows in the back of the building look like. I imagine the light is amazing in there. The golden light warms the brick on the front of the building and reflects gloriously on those windows on the right. The design of the tile around the open doorway. The number 2. The Youth Cattle sign and the lightening rods that flank the sign. All of those details are a visual feast. Everything is very symmetrical, except for that lone bush on the left side. I feel calm, balanced, but also intrigued.

After this two page spread, I began to look at the remaining photographs with new eyes.

Here is a list of the other photographers in the book, whose work intrigued me:

What each of these photographers gave me was work that filled me with a sense of wonder. That's what I seek in other's work and my own, the ability to wonder.


It has been a good couple of weeks away. We/I still haven't gotten everything done that we wanted to do. We got the 15 yards of bark spread. We spent a very hot Memorial Day weekend staining the deck. The kitchen flooring went in Wednesday, the kitchen feels so much more complete now. But there is still painting, drywall patching, and finding a new half bath vanity that makes me happy.

I didn't do any filming in May, after completing eight vacation films from April, there just wasn't the time or the desire to film more. But June shows promise, I am joining some others from the Make Films:12 course and committing to thirty days of filming. I am ever so hopeful that I won't lose steam on this.

I signed my husband and I up for a photography workshop in August - Abandoned Buildings in Gary, Indiana. Doesn't that sound like heaven?

I will be in and out this summer. Sharing when I have something of value to say. Otherwise, I will be around on Instagram and Facebook.


  1. Very interesting Sarah . . .
    I found myself reading and rereading your words . . .
    “Seeing and Hearing” something new each time I reread . . .
    (Reading and going back and forth with my focus on the two photographs.)
    I was startled how certain words you mentioned didn’t resonant in my “first” read, yet . . .
    “popped” into my vision . . . a second, third time . . .
    giving me new, different, wonder in the “reread.”

    I am feeling a bit strange as I even write this . . .
    Perplexed because I was connected to you . . .
    yet kept returning to the cover photo on the book.

    And it was there that I was filled with emotion . . .
    It made me want to know more . . . to get “inside” . . . the fear, alone, lonely, stark in the photo.

    I was left thinking . . . what a “study” for a book club discussion . . .

  2. I love looking at photography books of the coffee table variety - and they don't necessarily need to be photography books. Coffee table books of any topic that interests you, are full of photos worthy of examination - analyzing. You're reminding me that I need to do more of this.

    Sounds like you have been VERY busy at home. I remember doing a kitchen remodel in our last home, a few years ago. What a major upheaval that felt like - but oh, how wonderful it felt when it was done. Someday, when I'm not mired in work, I'd love to "talk" with you about where you find your courses. It seems as though you find a community in your coursework, as well, that goes beyond the course itself. I would really like something like that but probably couldn't keep up with it right now. I'm hopeful, though, that I have some changes on the horizon.

    Have fun with your June filming - I am hoping you will post some of this new work.

  3. The most intriguing book I have come across is Vivian Maier, Street Photographer. She was a amateur but photographed like profession. I have been going through a slump with my photos recently. Thanks to your posting today, a spark went off in my mind and I hope to put it to good use. Thank you.

    1. Andy - I am so happy that you found a spark today. I know it is essential when we are in these slumps to find something to get the fire going again.

  4. I loved reading about your process of discovering what you liked. I kind of feel like it's cheating for me because so far, I like what you like - so you're giving me the answers. I suppose that will change and I'll grow to find my own style. Thanks for being a mentor in that sense. I used to gravitate toward black and white street photography (ex. Jean-Claude Gautrand), but my life is suburban/country/Midwest/kids. It's slower, as are my tastes in photos. I look for stillness now.

  5. I agree with you about the pull of the Youth Cattle Building. I want to know what it's like inside! You've had a productive time during your break. I love books on photography too, the sort that show photos on every page! Looking forward to your future films!

  6. I've always been disappointed in the photography books at the local libraries. It seems photography and photo coffee table books aren't so popular! The one you chose looks like a good one; one that I would enjoy. You've been very busy in your break. You'll have to show us some finished results!! The workshop you signed up for sounds wonderful!

  7. The photography workshop sounds like such a wonderful adventure, Sarah!!!
    Enjoy every moment.

  8. The book looks like a good one; I love "reading" photography books for inspiration;the trouble is finding them. I hope our library system has this one. I agree with your choice of the Youth Cattle building... it practically beckons to me to come inside and explore. Glad your kitchen project is moving along!

  9. This is an intriguing post Sarah! I always learn something about photography from you and your reviews. The two building comparison was thoughtful and excellent, and I'd like to explore more of that kind of breakdown in photography. Thank you for sharing. Enjoy your summer!

  10. You would enjoy visiting my friend Donna’s blog. coming to my Senses. She is a down to earth photographer who takes the most amazing photos of everyday scenes. The blog is also called Like Medicine for Me because she started her photo journey when she discovered her mother had dementia and used her camera as a way of dealing with it all.

  11. I understand why you prefer the brick building photograph to the white building one - I feel the same about it. I have to see whether I can find this book in our library.
    The workshop sounds very interesting. There is something intriguing about abandoned buildings even though I can't really put down my finger on what it is. I admit I'm a bit jealous, but I know that you probably will share your photos with us.

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  14. I love paging through books just looking at the photography. It is amazing what you can discover when you really take the time to look closely at what the photographer was trying to capture, and then find what resonates with you. The Youth Cattle Barn picture does look like one you would like. :) The Abandon Building workshop in Indiana sounds like a lot of fun. I can't wait to see your blog post on the workshop!


Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)