If you live in a home like mine, what I prefer to call well lived in rather than messy, there probably isn’t a shortage of stuff. The word might even give you an ulcer because maybe you don’t just have stuff, you have too much stuff. Good news, I’m not here to judge, I’m here to help you embrace that stuff for your own creative advantage.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Ashley,” We are on a first name basis now, by the way. “..I could get onboard with your idea of seeing light in my home, but the stuff? No way.” Umm, yes way, new friend. Your stuff is AWESOME.
As an in-home documentary photographer, I go crazy over stuff. Yes, walking into a clean home with white walls and clean windows is great and much easier to shoot in, but stuff is my jam. If I walk in and see a full sink of dirty dishes and toys all over the house, I basically die and go to some sort of weird artistic heaven. One day, it got me to thinking, if I get so giddy over stuff in other people’s houses, why not in my home?
Stuff is awesome to shoot for two reasons:
1) It’s the evidence of your life. Those dishes in the sink and outlets missing the cover? Yep, that’s all you, darling. That’s where you are right now, in a busy and chaotic life that should be embraced and inspire you. Someday you’ll have a clean kitchen and a living room that belongs in a magazine…but today, you have stuff.
2) It makes you exercise your photo composing muscles. I’m not going to lie, shooting ordinary, sometimes ugly (gasp!) stuff is not easy, so you are going to have to work at it. Think of taking photos of stuff to be the CrossFit of photography challenges. How can you take a photo of all of the toys on the floor to make it look artistic and not like a scene from Hoarders? You are an artist, this is your chance to really work hard and make some art. Some people do pull-ups, some people take photos of toothbrushes, it’s all about balance.
Alright, look around your house right now for unassuming awesome and pick up your camera…it’s time to make your stuff your inspiration. Don’t be afraid to play with your exposure to make an ordinary scene more dramatic, and get creative with compositions. Stand on tables and in bathtubs to get the ultimate stuff photo. Really look at your editing here too. Is color part of the story or would black and white make it stronger?
Oh, and in case you are getting all weird again and need a reminder, you are shooting for the process, not perfection, so have fun with this and take the pressure of expectations away.
Happy stuff embracing and I’ll be back soon with the next secret to using your home as your creative inspiration!
Ashley Manley is a serial personal project shooter with a love for documenting real moments on her small farm in Central Illinois. Aside from her family, the loves of her life are her fuji X-T2, fujinon 23mm lens, helping other photographers to stay inspired, all the black and white things, and wine in a box. She left social media at the beginning of 2017 but she loves new friends, so visit her website and shoot her an email already!