In photography, there's a constant temptation to look for the fantastic. We search for unique features, interesting compositions, juxtapositions, or notable events in hopes that it will create visual interest to draw the viewer in. While I don't discount the value of these principals in creating interesting images, I also believe that the constant search for these things can, at times, give us tunnel vision where we stop observing the otherwise mundane world.
At some point last year, I went out to take photos near my house and I took a photo of some graffiti on the wall.
It wasn't anything fancy—a throwaway shot, really. I was just pushing frames and wasting film. I didn't give any real thought to composition or anything else when I took it and frankly, I forgot that I had taken it for some time. There was nothing particularly special or notable about it since I walk by graffiti everyday and as you can see, we're not exactly talking about a Banksy here.
One day, however, I noticed that it was gone. Someone had put a fresh coat of paint over it to cover the graffiti, as happens so often in this city. I drive by this wall on my way home from work everyday and I cannot for the life of me tell you how long after the wall was painted that I finally noticed that this graffiti was gone.
It's so easy to get so focused on finding the different that we lose sight of the familiar. When we get on the bus, we put our heads down into our phone or close our eyes to sleep. When we leave the house, we just walk right by all of the perfectly ordinary scenery with nary a thought about it. On some level, however, that scenery is constantly in flux. On a smaller scale, it's a bit of graffiti being erased from a wall. On a larger scale, it's the gradual transformation of neighborhoods.
Take a moment once in a while to look around and occasionally photograph the mundane things because before you know it, they might not be there to capture anymore. The bit of graffiti that I took a photo of that day is gone, but it still exists on a film strip in my negative binder serving as a visual document of a tiny piece of my neighborhood's history.