Follow your curiosity is an old rule of creativity, a hack from before people called them hacks. Pay deep attention to whatever interests you, and you will likely find that the more time spent closely examining anything closely, the more you will see to see.
Poets employ the trick: Wallace Stevens, 13 Ways of looking at a Blackbird.
Novelists do too: Craig Brown’s , 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret .
Photographers make this a regular practice. Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations, and Hilla & Bernd Becher’s Water Towers are the first that come to mind for me, but I’ll bet you can think of plenty more. This kind of singular subject focus helps to organize projects, and looking hard for the interesting or novel angle is usually part of the photographer’s basic remit.
Subjects easily read as background may take on sculptural, totemic, even mythical status when you see them through the eyes of someone who is fixated by them. The perpetual lesson for me is that anything can be interesting, even beautiful, when viewed with a focused, intentional gaze.
It’s natural for our brains to filter out the majority of visual inputs they receive and process so much of the rest as symbols as we move through life. We’d never be able to make it through our days if we actually tried to see it all. But when I am shown the product of someone else’s close attention, my necessary blinders drop for a moment. I am reminded again that all there for us to see – all around us – all of the time.
I’ve been taken by hydrangeas since an early childhood trip to Morristown, New Jersey in high summer. In my memory, shrubs bearing impossibly giant, shockingly blue pompom-like blooms flanked every single front door in the entire town. Even after having grown my own hydrangeas for years, I am still amazed by the potential for variety and serendipity in every plant, right down to their petals.
What fascinates you? I’d really love to see!
Keep your eyes wide open,