Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Importance of Details

I tend to be a big-picture sort of person in many ways. When making plans with friends, I am content to arrange a time frame and work out what we'll be doing once everyone has arrived rather than establish a real schedule for the evening. When considering what to write, I can quickly come up with essay topics and plot ideas, but narrowing down the focus of the essay and mapping out the development of the story take time. Until Wednesday, photography was no exception to this trend. I had always relied on point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones to capture the scenes I found intriguing. Often these images were attractive landscapes or busy streets, the kind of large, relatively simple subjects that could be documented and shared without suffering for the lack of sharp, small details.

As we spent the day learning to use more sophisticated cameras under the expert guidance of photographer Brian Ricks, I began to discover the world the beyond my big-picture, point-and-shoot approach to photography. At first, it seemed overwhelming. There are formats other than JPEG? I need to adjust how many settings before I can take the picture? After some practice, however, the camera began to seem downright magical, the possibilities intoxicating. Suddenly, I could photograph high-up objects so clearly that it seemed I'd been standing right next to them. I could light up a dark room just by pressing a few buttons, and I didn't even have to use the flash!

Once we had practiced enough to get comfortable with our cameras, we set out into the field. The emphasis on consideration and detail when taking photographs now shifted from learning how to handle the camera to using it to document our surroundings. We had been recording the large subjects we encountered, such as boats, scenery, and buildings; today we focused on smaller but equally distinctive and important aspects of the community. As residents generously welcomed us into their homes, I found that seemingly ordinary spaces and the plethora of small things within them became every bit as captivating and rewarding to capture as a sweeping sea view. The house we visited was a treasure trove of decorations and family memorabilia. Linda's Inn of Olde transformed from a single collection of curiosities to a more complex assortment of distinctive individual items. The yard where we finished our day became not just a pleasant part of the house's property, but a gathering of nautical and everyday items crafted into a kind of garden art gallery that perfectly encompassed the unique character of this place.

Statues and decorative stones in the window of Claude Ring's kitchen. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Sign and various items on the piano in Linda's Inn of Olde. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Johnny Barnes shows us a rock decoration inside one of the sheds in his and Anne Barnes' yard. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Statues, bell, and recycled items inside the same shed. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Moon decoration on a tree in Johnny and Anne Barnes' yard. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Johnny and Anne Barnes' dog relaxes near the additional sheds in his yard. Photo by Klara Nichter.

Spending the day concentrating on these small things gave me a new appreciation for the importance of details and, ultimately, folklore. While it is true that the views of boats and the sea beyond are an important part of Quidi Vidi's distinct character, so too are the many everyday things that the village's residents add to this broader landscape. The items with which people populate their living spaces are clearly chosen and looked after with great care, and each collection reflects the distinct personality and lifestyle of its owners. Looking back over my photographs from the day, I began to consider how important it is to take time when observing my surroundings and notice the details within the bigger picture. Studying details such as the items in peoples' homes offers insight into the community that geography and history alone cannot provide; folklore is essential if one wants to understand more fully.

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