Julian Ray Photography

Same Old, Seen Anew

Same old, seen anew.

Every once in a while I am invited to be a guest speaker in a photography or photojournalism class taught by one of my colleagues. Though scheduling is often a challenge I try to rearrange things so I can attend as I always have a blast and learn tons from participating in them. I enjoy the creative interaction and fresh take on things that the new students bring to these discussions.

Because my work revolves around assignments and deadlines I like to share this format with the classes. Usually the students react with surprise when I tell them that I too will be doing the assignment that I have given them. It’s fun, a good way to reach, teach, keep fresh, and most of all, it's a great way to learn. Several of my blog posts on this website are a version of those assignments. This one is as well.

Recently I was invited to return to a photojournalism class I had spoken at a few weeks ago. It was gratifying to see the evolution of the students' work in just a few weeks.

The focus that day was on looking at the ordinary and shooting it in a way that brings a new angle, perspective, or story to the viewer. This is one of the biggest challenges facing a photojournalist in this day of media over-saturation. The pressures of standing out just to be noticed and doing so without sensationalism can be massive. How to cover a story, any story, that gives the viewer insight or starts a meaningful dialogue and not pander or condescend.

After much animated discussion and critique of all of our work I decided to turn the tables on the class and let them come up the assignment. With the focus being on photographing something everyone has seen a zillion times. Oh did that bring out the savage, evil inner editor in all of them. It was great.

After the obligatory negotiations and bargaining the assignment was set.

Shot list: Natural light, as found, bathroom, 5 shots. Due in 30 min!

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I love giving this assignment as I find it pushes photographers of all abilities to look, really look at the world around them in a new way.

Try this exercise as a way of seeing the ordinary in a new and unique way and see if you don’t find you are taking better pictures as a result.

Remember, you don't have to make each shot award winning material. The artificially short deadline is to force you to not overthink the assignment. Instead spend some time looking and seeing something ordinary in a way that you may never have before and document that in images.

I'd love to see some of your best shots. Feel free to post yours here and let me know what you think about them, other people's images, as well as mine.

PS -I would like to thank my assistant, Kalu, for his help with this grueling shoot. He kept reminding me to stop and hydrate.

I look forward to seeing you out there.

Julian Ray

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