I have lines on my mind.
Just recently, commercial photographer and photography instructor Zack Arias has (finally!) launched his DEDPXL website, complete with Q&A videos, the obligatory blog, links to merchandise including the upcoming renewal of his popular Onelight instructional video, and a section for non-photography, but inspirational, things called The Society of Good Stuff, authored by Zack’s wife Meghan. Meghan identifies herself as an un-photographer, but is an excellent singer and songwriter. Zack himself has some serious chops, ranging from personal projects and street photography, through instructing at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai, all the way to photographing the CEO of Coca-Cola. Plus, he sports a stylish goatee and flat cap, occasionally plays the ukelele, and seems like the nicest guy in the world.
One exciting aspect of DEDPXL, for those who’ve been waiting for the relaunch, is that Zack has embarked on a series of assignments for his readers. These are designed to push us to think more, create new work that is different from our usual photographs, and “see the photograph” in the scenes around us (or in our mind’s eye, visualizing before shooting). The theme of the first uses a single prompt word: Lines. The accompanying video is almost hypnotic, and now I can hear him saying the word over, and over, and over again. Lines. Lines lines lines. Lines.
What’s interesting about this exercise is how open to interpretation it is. That single word, “lines”, makes me think of all kinds of different things:
- visual lines of buildings, roads, railings
- railway lines
- power lines
- lines of text
- lines of music
- curved lines
- parallel lines
- intersecting lines
- lines of people queuing for things
- grade school students writing lines as punishment (do they still do that?)
- the clean or attractive “lines” of a ship, or a car, or a piece of clothing
- age lines on a face
And so on.
The first photographs I specifically went out to shoot with this theme in mind were, well, fairly predictable. Railings. Windows. A view I’ve sat near for a long time, and photographed before.
Then I started seeing lines in placed I hadn’t noticed, hiding in plain sight.
Looking back through some of the first crop of boring escalator-and-staircase type photographs, I began to find unintentionally interesting bits. A reflection and the underside of an escalator, for example.
Then I started thinking about studio photographs. What do I have with lines? A bamboo box? A vinyl LP? Some books? Pencils? Straws? Matches? This could go on forever.
As the month unfolds, I’ll be looking for, and with luck finding, lines in new locations, and learning to see those photographs a bit more than I do now. Which is, of course, the point of the exercise. As long as I can avoid that little shoulder-sitting demon Zack muttering in my ear, or walking along mumbling under my breath: “Lines. Lines. Lines…”