Sketchy Thoughts

©Ibnu Saud

The above sketch was recently posted by an architect friend of mine to his Facebook album. Funnily my first reaction on seeing it was, "that's quite an interesting photo!", and I could even imagine it in color. The bright colored prize scooter in contrast against the usual grayish corporate color of a bank interior, the lone potted plant giving a small patch of green, some colorful lines showing the currency exchange rate and other banking information in the monitor above... I guess what interests me the most from it is how it depicts a bank without actually showing any distinct banking activities (In fact the only clues are the sketch title and the writings on the scooter license plate; if those weren't there I'd guess it's a, say, auto showroom). And that's why I immediately thought of it as a photo: it's basically a snapshot in the form of a sketch, not really trying to explain something it shows so much as simply presenting a reaction of seeing a particular scene which somehow grabs your attention. Even the hastily drawn lines and shadings seem to prove the point. But like a good snapshot, when all the elements are neatly arranged, the whole becomes much more than the sum of its parts. The placement of something gives context and clues to other things within the frame. And that's how my photographic mind works when I'm out shooting; I'm not really concerned at what I'm aiming my camera at --whether they're 'good' or not, but rather how those things in front of me could be correlated to other things around them from a particular vantage point. Whether it works or not I'll decide later during the editing.

Below are two other sketches from the same album, and there's something in them which is also parallel to the process of photographing (at least mine):

©Ibnu Saud
©Ibnu Saud

If you figure out both scenes are in the same place, you've got good eyes for noticing details. The two lamps behind the musician group in the second sketch are also visible in the center part of first one. 

It's similar with how I often find something interesting while photographing. I don't search for it. The problem with searching is you have to know beforehand what you're searching for. And when you have something fixed in mind when shooting, you become oblivious to other things around you, and in the end feeling frustrated because you can't find something you want. Instead, what I would do is scanning the general area of where I am, just like how the first sketch shows everything with the same importance. When I get a good idea of how a particular spot feels, I would then try to notice a detail within the area that grabs my interest. It could be anything random, a street sign, a funny looking shrub, that guy with a bright colored hat, etc... Sometimes they don't even have to be visual. Perhaps it's smell, other times a particular voice you hear. And then I would move in to that direction. I don't know how and why, but when I get there I will usually find something interesting which is barely seen from the spot where I was standing before, just like how the group of musician in the second sketch isn't quite visible in the first one. You won't believe how many good scenes and moments you would encounter just by repeating this process (though *getting* them perfectly in your frame is of course a totally different thing).

And the fact that I can relate these sketches to photography proves that this kind of seeing is something which is always switched on all the time for me...

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