We all probably know this situation when we come back to familiar places, which we know like the back of one’s hand. As a photographer – and street photographer in particular – you often walk the same streets in trying to rediscover familiar places with new eyes and inspiration. However, seeing known spots in a new light sometimes seems like an insurmountable hurdle. You need to mix things up, have a fresh look on your city: in short, inverting upside down to add a new perspective.
Last December when reading a book on inspiration in photography (Gildas Lepetit-Castel – L’inspiration en photographie – Amazon), I came across a wonderful quote by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it;
blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches;
for the creator, there is no poverty.”
If you find yourself in a situation where you no longer seem to find inspiration in familiar places as a photographer, this quote is an actual reminder that it is not the fault of the familiar places.
Back to old familiar places
It is true that I was enthusiastic to have several trips planned back to Strasbourg, the city where I lived for almost four years altogether. This professional trip was the opportunity to get out of what I call my hometown today and to grab my camera to make photos in another place. The result, however, was a severe disillusion at first: I had some trouble in seeing the city I’ve lived on for several years with a fresh look. I almost immediately fell back into old (and I thought forgotten) patterns when walking through the city center. As a first step out of those patterns, I did some night street photography I rarely have occasions for when in my hometown. In a second step, this morning upon my arrival in Strasbourg and before starting my course teaching, I started trying to walk the same places but to actually see them with new eyes remembering all the pictures I have been confronted with since the beginning of my street photography journal.
One of the results was noticing the very nice reflections of the typical houses in Strasbourg in the Ill river. After working the scene, I found an interesting angle which included a small pedestrian bridge and potential reflections of people on this bridge in addition to the reflections of the houses. The different pictures looked nice in the camera and once I got out of the straight five hours of teaching this afternoon, I headed to the hotel to view the pictures on the screen of my laptop. The reflections of the buildings on the calm water came out really nice, but I was slightly disappointed as the people on the bridge did not stand out enough in front of the houses in the background.
But then I noticed that the people on the bridge were much better isolated in the reflection as their silhouettes stood out against the blue sky behind their reflected shadows. As a result, I decided to flip the pictures around and I was positively surprised by the result: the world upside down. Below are two of the pictures.