The only voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
As a landscape photographer, I believed for a long time that I couldn’t possibly create beautiful or evocative imagery unless I travelled to exotic lands. That only those subjects in faraway places deserved my attention.
When visiting a new destination, I can’t wait to get out and explore. It feels so exciting, exotic, fresh. I feel that I can never get enough of it, and that I will never have enough time to capture it all. And that is very true. Brief visits are exactly that. Brief. There are always amazing images to capture. However I know that I will never be able to really get to know the place in such a short time. To get a sense of the place and to be able to convey how I feel about it. Unless I come back over and over again, and create the emotional connection which will allow me to photograph what it feels like to be there. And that is not always possible.
However what is possible, is to spend a little bit of time each day exploring places that are just around the corner. But why is it not so attractive? Why does it feel so ordinary? The truth is, where we live is not ordinary. It is just familiar. We walk past these places every day and we simply stop seeing them. We stop noticing the little details that we pass by because we think we have seen it all before.
I have lived and worked in London for over 15 years now. Gradually over those years, I started to lose sight of what it was like when I arrived in this city for the first time – full of excitement and desire to get to know it. My everyday commute became a chore and all the magnificent sights became too familiar. So familiar that I started to take them for granted.
When I realised that, I felt embarrassed and ungrateful. How many people are there who would give anything for living close to this fascinating city? And here I am, not even seeing it any more.
Therefore I went back to being a stranger in my own home town, and started to appreciate wherever I am. Not just London, but also my local area. Since then I have discovered many wonderful hidden corners filled with their own unique beauty. They are not spectacular views, sweeping vistas or breathtaking sights. They are rather quiet and reflective moments and little details. However they bring me back the joy I used to have when I first moved here.
So the good news is, it’s all there in front of us. All the time. We don’t have to go very far to find something extraordinary. The ability to see the extraordinary is in us and the way we see the world around us. Only we can look at familiar places with new eyes, deeper, under the surface, and find beauty where it is not so obvious. Even on our doorstep. And it is much more rewarding than travelling to distant locations to capture iconic views that have been captured by many others before us.
Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.