Is it safe to say that no two individuals are the same? Without getting into a nature vs. nurture debate I’m going to venture out and say that because of our unique backgrounds or experiences we are all unique in some way. What opportunities did you have that would have afforded some creative photography? Riding horses? Flying planes? Practicing the art of the trapeze? What sets you apart from the majority?
Your uniqueness doesn’t have to come from something that you do, it can come from the area you live, visit, work, etc.. For instance, according to the 2013 census there were only 323,002 people living in Iceland. Comparatively, there are 12.79 million people living in my home state of Pennsylvania (the United States population is around 318.9 million). If you live in (or visit) Iceland you’ll have the opportunity to photograph people, landscapes, and culture that far less other photographers would otherwise have access to.
Another great example would be the International Space Station; each time one of the Astronauts (Cosmonauts?) takes a pretty picture it makes its rounds on many of the national news outlets. If there were 318.9 million astronauts in space the shock factor of a great photograph from there would be severely reduced. You’d have to visit the depths of Flickr to sort through the billions of average space photos and photographers to find something interesting or different from the others.
How To Take Advantage Of Your Unique Situations
The first step is to actually take a step… Yes, action is required and you must not procrastinate. Procrastination is the devil. I like to listen to motivational speakers from time to time and the quote by Les Brown comes to mind as I write this:
The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream.
Our ideas and gifts die with us, living without attempting to realize them is like murdering them in their sleep with a pillow over the face. Don’t be a murderer.
You’re surrounded by interesting people… Unless you are reading this while you sit on the toilet. Simply asking someone to take their photograph or follow them around for the day will give you the opportunity to take some unique images. Think about your friends and family who have interesting hobbies.
I once did a marketing shoot for someone who builds fancy wine cellars and has a collection of expensive wine in their basement, it was once of the most interesting shoots I’ve done. Who do you know who has an interesting hobby like that? Ask them if you could photograph them, their collection, etc..
Many places that you think are off-limits are just simply not. Get outside of your comfort zone and start asking around, somebody will know who you need to talk to in order to get permission to photograph their area. I spent the better part of a year trying to get access to the rooftop of a building in Pittsburgh and finally did just by asking, asking, and asking some more.
I used my connection I had made in other areas of my life to find out who I needed to ask for permission to access the roof of this very secure building. Think about the people you or your friends work with and where they may be able to help you gain access to.
Be careful not to be obnoxious about asking people for favors like this. Simply ask once or twice and then drop it, if they never get back to you it’s their way of saying “Hey Friend, I don’t feel comfortable with this but I’m too nice to tell you no… Weirdo.”
What unique things do you have access to? Do you have a collection of North American Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles pinned to your wall like a nerd boss? Photograph them! I won’t like it (they creep me out) but it’s unique and I’m sure, if done well, the images would be interesting. Whats perfectly normal or familiar to you may be incredibly exotic and interesting to someone else. I’m sure the streets of New York City are common place for many of the people living there but each time I visit I find new and exciting things around every corner.
If you only take two things away from this article it should be this: Don’t kill dreams with pillows over their face and North American Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles are a real thing. Feel free to share your unique images with us on our Flickr page or on Facebook. You can leave your thoughts in the comments below.