In my last post I mentioned that in order to photograph your subject well you must know it deeply. But knowing my subject too well became a challenge. Upon my return from Europe in the summer of 2006 I was deeply frustrated photographically. I had spent the previous four months photographing in France, Italy, England, and Holland, and then had a magical trip on a yacht up through the Southeast Passage in Alaska. The visual feast of having something new and exciting to see for virtually every second of every day had dulled my senses to the familiar. I turned back to my books for inspiration and a new subject. This statement, from Ernst Haas, changed my thinking in an instant: “I am not interested in shooting new things, I am interested to see things new.”
I am not overstating it to say this sentence changed my life. I went out that evening to see things new; things (my home town) that I had such familiarity with that I could tell you when a certain flower or shrub would bloom in a particular back yard, or when a building was last painted, and didn’t it need painting again? There is value in knowing something so well, I suppose it’s the meaning in the phrase “my home town”. Shepherdstown had been my home for 44 years at this point….and with the arrival of Ian and Jessica, my family had called Shepherdstown “home” for six generations. I never could have predicted that I would move, or move all the way across the country to Seattle…but that summer, my last summer in Shepherdstown, taught me that I can photograph wherever I am….an exotic locale or from my elevator each morning….and see things new.