Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beauty in Unexpected Places

One holiday weekend while visiting my mother, I curled up on my bed after she’d gone to sleep and opened a copy of a magazine a friend had shared with me. I found all of the articles helpful, particularly “What the Road Passes By,” written by William Neill, a professional photographer whose images have won numerous awards and been widely published and exhibited.

Although my skills as a photographer in no way match his, I sense a kindred spirit with him. Like Neill, I, too, started out by taking “descriptive” photos of places I visited and events I attended, etc. But as I devote more time to photography, a similar kind of thing is happening to me as he said happened to him: “Slowly, as my skills developed as an artist, I found that I was always finding exciting images, no matter how far from home or the road I was on. I began to put less emphasis on how exotic or remote the location was and more emphasis on cultivating the perception to find beauty near at hand, where others would pass it, and then to photograph it uniquely” (Outdoor Photographer, December 2006, p. 58).
Like Neill, I, too, want to succeed “in helping others see what the road passes by” (p. 120). Thankfully, there’s beauty all around, even in unexpected places. I don’t have to go far away or to exotic places to find it. It’s in my yard, in my town, along the roads I drive on, in the faces of others…

It’s fairly easy to see and to photograph the beauty that everyone else can see. But more and more frequently I’m looking for beauty in unexpected places, or, as Neill said, in places “the road passes by,” places unnoticed by other passersby.

For example, one Saturday afternoon my husband took me to the site of an old mill he remembered seeing many years ago. There, in that remote area, which once upon a time may have been buzzing with activity, I discovered unexpected beauty amid the ruins. So, I snapped picture after picture of the place scarcely noticed by those who drive past, especially those who frequently drive by.

Although I have many beautiful photos in my collection, some of my favorite images are those showing the beauty I found in unexpected places. (I’ve posted some of them here:
Discovering such beauty is like waking up on Christmas morning and seeing a stack of gifts that will delight your heart.

The ability to see beauty in unexpected places is a God-given gift, I think. But we can develop it if we’ll “train the eye” to look for beauty. One of the best ways to do that is to take lots and lots of pictures, which can now be done cheaply with a digital camera. Once we upload the photos to our computer’s hard drive, we can enjoy the beauty long after the time we took the photos. And if we share them with others via e-mail, web albums, or prints, others can also enjoy the beauty we noticed and photographed.

As you can tell, I am passionate about photography! And becoming increasingly able to see beauty, even in unexpected places, truly delights me.

Since the Creator has placed beauty, truth, and goodness all around, may He never need to say to us, “‘You have eyes—can’t you see’ (Mark 8:18, NLT) all that I intend for you to see?”

©2007 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. For permission to use, please contact her.

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