Unexpected Subjects

A year and a half ago, I paused outside the house with the red door just long enough to hang my iPhone out the car window to tap a photo of the realtor’s sign. Since then, I’ve been tightening the loose ends of this 60-something-year-old house into a home—patching plaster walls, replacing air filters in the confines of a crawl space and favoriting contacts like "Handyman Doug" in my address book.

It has stretched me in a good way, until the lights went out on September 11 and the power guy appeared at my red door. "Ma’am, your meter box burned up the meter. You’ve got yourself a fire hazard." So I called a friend who’s an expert at finding experts who fix broken things, and fired off a quick photo of my newfound hazard to depict the damage, at his request.

"It’s ancient," said the electrician on arrival, shaking his head at my meter box, which is actually round and not what I would call a "box." Three hours later, it landed with a thud at the bottom of the trash bin as the power guy rode up high in a retractable basket and restored my power.

That night, as I scrolled through images on my camera roll, I paused on the shot of that ancient meter box. It was nothing special—just an image that served a purpose when words would have failed me—yet its round shape and complex innards intrigued me. Using the Snapseed app, I cropped it to a square, increased the exposure, contrast and details, and converted the rusted gray palette to black-and-white, revealing an intricate world, a space to explore.

Then, I remembered an image I made of a girl walking through a doorway on a crooked street in Tbilisi, Georgia. I opened both images in the Blender app so I could simulate her entrance. For a dramatic shot of color, I opened the blended image in the Mextures app and added the Color Dodge light leak.

Try shooting found or broken artifacts before you discard them and incorporate them within your art. While your subject may not be interesting enough to stand on its own, blend in life by layering images of people or animals to transform a simple object into a magical scene to explore.

Stephanie Calabrese is an award-swinning documentary photographer and the author of the best-selling The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity, 2nd Edition, and Lens on Life: Documenting Your World Through Photography. See more of her work at www.stephaniecalabrese.com.

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