About Not Knowing a Place

Dome and Tower of the Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain, 2015

Dome and Tower of the Almudena Cathedral
Madrid, Spain, 2015

Earlier this year, I was fortunate to visit Spain for the first time.  Since my usual photographic outings are spent in and around my home on the front range of Colorado, wandering the streets of Madrid provided a refreshing change of mindset to my approach to making images.

In Colorado, I tend to have much familiarity with the subjects and locations I approach.  When I go out to photograph, I bring with me my knowledge and observations of seasons, landscapes, and conditions gained over my years of photographing here.  I know what places typically look like, and I can see the small changes from day to day, month to month, year to year.  It’s like reading and rereading a good book, where each time may provide a new insight or appreciation, but much of the pleasure is immersing yourself in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

Madrid was kind of like seeing a complicated, fast-paced movie for the first time.  Visually, walking around the city felt like a series of fleeting impressions that changed quickly from scene to scene, location to location.  Seeing things for the first time denied me the opportunity to place them within a context, and my observations were based solely on how things happened to look at the moment I happened to be looking at them.  When something made an impression, it had to be photographed quickly if it was to be photographed at all, since more likely than not I would not be back again.

It’s a different, exciting way to approach photography.  The pace and spontaneity of it forces you to move out of your comfort zone and adapt.  The image in this post probably is the closest to what I expected to come back with, but most of my captures from Madrid are not what I expected they would be at all.  So while there’s many reasons that knowing about a place will help with your photography, there’s just as many reasons that not knowing about a place will do the same.

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