Every Picture Has Been Taken

769_march_1954If I had to pick one thing I’ve been passionate about in my life outside of work, family and friends, it would be photography. While I love reading books, listening to music, seeing movies and watching sports, those are (by me) passively consumed, so they can’t count as a passion (and I love to travel, which is certainly active, but my adventurous days of hitchhiking through the Yucatan and Central America are long gone).

So it’s photography that’s captured my attention more than anything. Mostly shots of things, not people. A little abstract or out of context. Symmetry when I can find it.

But I’ve barely shot anything in the past 2 years.

Why not?

Because I feel like every picture’s been taken.

I remember attending the Old Town arts fair here in Chicago many years ago. I used to love going to those kinds of events to check out the photography, but then, as I walked around at this particular event, it hit me: Every photographer was selling pictures of windows and doors.

Amazing colors, deep textures, exquisitely executed. But ultimately dull and ubiquitous.

What really bothered me – more than the ubiquity – was that those were the exact same kinds of pictures I’d been taking for years. Mine were perhaps a couple notches down on the quality ruler, but they were more or less the same.

And all at once, they bored me.

I don’t think I’ve taken a picture like that since.

So What’s It All Mean?

I’m clearly wrong that every picture has been taken, and there are geniuses are out there every day capturing their own unique take on the world (check out the amazing and just-discovered collection of 100,000+ street photos by Vivian Maier, an otherwise anonymous North Shore nanny in the 50s and 60s).

But as I reflected on this feeling that all of the pictures have been taken, it made me think of the beat reporter – the scribe who focuses on one particular subject. For instance, the technology startup reporter. Or the reporter who covers a specific industry startups are invading, from healthcare to education to manufacturing.

There must be times that these reporters feel like I do with shots of doors and windows – that every story has been written. The names may change, the funding amounts may differ, but that’s about it.

If I’m correct and they do indeed feel this way, then before you call or write  reporters to tell them just how amazing your story is, you should ask yourself:

Am I giving them something they’ve never seen before, or is my story just the same old windows and doors?

PS - Run, don't walk, to VivianMaier.com.