The Fox and The Lion
There’s old Aesop’s fable, it’s about a fox and a lion. A fox sees a lion walking down a path and runs for fear of its life. But the lion doesn’t give chase. The next day, the fox sees the lion again but this time he draws closer, yet still staying at a safe distance. The third time the lion and the fox see each other and the fox goes right up to the lion and starts a conversation. He asks him how his family is and when should he and the lion get together again, as if they’er old chums. Then he just turns his tail and walks away, like this was completely normal. The moral Aesop gives; “Familiarity Breeds Contempt.”
This is more than just an Aesop’s fable. Why it is even biblical. Jesus says, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” [1. Matthew 13:57 NIV] It’s the same concept. Jesus and Aesop both saw something that was true. It’s something we face every day as photographers. Everyday life around us can seem mundane and as a result uninteresting to photograph. This was brought out once again to me Saturday morning when I took my daughter out to take some photos. Jessie and I were doing a little photo walk, and she found a small shrine on the corner of the street. It was no more than 4 feet tall made of concrete and painted red. In it was a small oil lamp hanging from the top. Jessie was sharp enough to see the image, in fact I missed it completely. She snapped a couple of frames, I gave her some advice on how to shoot it again, so she went back for more shots. I guess the site of my daughter and I hovering over the small street side shrine caused a little curiosity for some of the local people. So one local man came up to us and asked what we were doing? I said we were taking pictures. He looked at me incredulously and said “Of what? What is there to take pictures of?” I showed him the shrine. He gave me a quizzical look, and finally asked if he could see a picture. I showed him one of the shots and he agreed it was a nice photograph.
Photo by Jessie Brandon, © 2009
It dawned on me, this was his everyday life. This was not unique. This was not special. This was not anything out of the ordinary. Interestingly enough, he told me he was Christian and that this wasn’t his shrine. I told him that that didn’t matter and that he passed by it every day and that it lost its uniqueness to him and as a result has become insignificant and uninteresting. I told Jessie that this was a lesson to be learned, we have to keep our eyes open and see things fresh. There are a lot of ways to do that.
One way that I’ve found recently, is by purposely using my iPhone camera rather than my SLR. It forces me to change position, as there is no zoom. By changing position I see things in a new way. If I get up close, my subject distorts and other things around me are taller. It gives me a new perspective. Of course, you can do this with any fixed lens on any SLR. But the iPhone allows me to stick the camera into small places that I could never have placed a big SLR, like in a ditch to take a picture of my daughter’s new kitten. Another way to fight the mundane, is to view things as geometric shapes and colors rather than their true meaning. So taking a picture of a shrine, or a door not because it’s a shrine or a door, but because it’s square or red.
Of course, the obvious point to all of this is anything can be visually exciting, and attractive if shot with the right lens and composed in the right way. But you have to see it fresh eyes. I like my shot of my friend smoking his pipe. But it doesn’t get any more mundane than a man smoking a pipe. Okay, maybe a man smoking a cigarette, but the point is there are images everywhere. Now I know, most of you know this. The reality, is that this post is for the few of you who may be suffering from a little creative dryness. You’re complaining that there’s just nothing to take pictures of. What is visually exciting about Temple Texas, or Stokenchurch, England? And you think, if I was only in Penang, Malaysia or Bangkok Thailand, I could get much better pictures. The fact is, you might be right. But only because you’re seeing things fresh, you’re seeing things that are new to you. You’re away from your familiar surroundings. Go out today and look at your world with fresh eyes. Maybe get down on your knees and take a picture of a kitty in a gutter.