You Just Had To Be There

Paris Red

Location, location, location. We have all heard this a million times with regards to retail businesses, but over the years I have become convinced that the same mantra applies to photography. The concept of location is really absurdly simple, as if you cannot take a photo if you are not there. But the simplicity of this notion hides a lot more under its skin, so to speak. That is because location is also inspiration. It brings out the desire to create, to compose, and to see with new eyes all things around us. That first time we set eyes on the Eiffel Tower from the courtyard in Palais de Chaillot in Trocadéro, or the morning when with the first light of the day we emerge from the Via del Corso onto Piazza del Popolo in Rome, are the stuff that feed our creative souls like nothing else can. It is as if such places pull some dormant creative energy from inside of us that for some reason or another, never managed to come out during our more routine lives. Call it creative adrenaline or whatever, but it is real, and some places just reach into us and pull it out. Which places? Well, that’s really a personal thing, and no one but ourselves can tell us where that is. But you’ll know it when you get there because you will feel that uncontrollable creative pull suddenly overwhelming you. And that, my friend, is why our feet take us where they take us.

 

Lately, I’ve Been Seeing Red

While small in size, the red purse dominates the canal scene. [Click photos for larger versions]
A red purse dominates the canal scene.
A red mailbox is a very rare sight these days.
A red mailbox is a very rare sight these days.
Even in a busy scene, the color red will stand out like no other.
Even in a busy scene, the color red will stand out like no other.

Not all colors are alike. How’s that for a tautological argument? But let me explain. I spend a considerable amount of my time on earth walking around cities searching for interesting photographic subjects. And while my somewhat optimistic searches don’t always prove fruitful (ok, some of it may have to do with my inherent photographic limitations), there is no denying that colors, or the lack of them, kind of influence what I look at, or at the very least, what I find interesting. They make objects stand out from their surroundings and dramatically influence the visual choices we make out there in the world.

So what is it about the color red that usually makes it stand out supreme from other colors? It’s not even my favorite color. But no matter where my eyes take me, red is a color I’ve found impossible to ignore. In its own silent way, it screams at me, demanding my visual attention like no other color out there (well, maybe with the exception of the neon oranges that some tourist groups wear so they won’t loose anyone). From a fashion perspective, you would not catch me dead wearing such a color. Perhaps because different to other colors, I don’t find red to be a passive color, or unassuming for that matter. It visually pokes you and demands not to be ignored. In its own convoluted way, it represents both passion and pain, smiles and tears. It can’t hide and cannot be missed. It pulls more than it pushes, and demands a photographer’s attention like no other. Resistance is futile, so it’s not even worth trying. Isn’t that wonderful?

 

The Wonder Of Simple Scenes

In a large city full of art galleries and majestic buildings, it was a simple red chair that captivated my imagination.
In a large city full of art galleries and majestic buildings, it was a simple red chair that captivated my imagination.

To be perfectly candid, I never go out with the intention of photographing chairs, or any other type of furniture for that matter.  In fact, when I recently encountered this scene, I had already snapped hundreds of photos of people and architectural landmarks.  What’s more, I have walked down this little, hidden street on too many occasions to count, and never had I seen this small table with a red chair before.  What made it more interesting was that it was never my intention to photograph the young lady in the photo.  In fact, when I started kneeling down to compose the photo, this person was not even in the frame.  I never saw her, but suddenly she went past me from behind and there she was in my camera frame like an apparition.  You know that feeling when someone you never saw suddenly appears from behind you?  Well, that was my immediate feeling when I saw the lady.  And the red shoes?  Call that a photographic bonus, because I’m not sure this scene would have worked as well without those shoes, so I’ll take luck any day.