Look Through Your Window

I’ve always admired landscapes and portraits taken by much more talented photographers than myself. Looking at their work – take landscapes photographed by Nasim – I see a world completely different to my own. I see colorful forests and tall mountains inviting me, tempting me. It’s as if they’re saying – come. We look gorgeous from every angle. Come. We are the very bones of Earth. We have valleys and rivers, there are canyons and caves, meadows and snowy peaks to be found. Whatever the time of day, whatever the season or weather, we look gorgeous from every angle. Much unlike the nature around my home, you know. All I’d need to do is choose the one angle I like most. How wonderful would that be.

I had the honor once of traveling with a British professor on train. He saw me photograph passengers aboard and we engaged in a conversation. Halfway through it, he pulled out his beaten laptop and showed me lots of images from his travels all around the globe. He was no photographer, but the places he’s been to were so mesmerizing, I felt a sudden rush of sadness. Why is Lithuania so boring? I’ve seen portraits of exotic people. I’ve had friends travel and come back with breathtaking images from Thailand, Malaysia and Africa, and they always brought something back with them that made me envy their chance. Portraits of people so different from those around me – deep, true. Living. I’ve seen foggy eyes of old wise men, I’ve seen carefree laughter of youngsters out in the streets of Delhi. I’ve seen French lovers in embrace. Why are French so different from the rest of us? Why a simple market suddenly becomes so interesting, if it’s in Japan or Vietnam? Why are taxis so iconic in New York City and London underground trains so full of street photography opportunities? The answer would seem very simple, of course. It’s because they’re better places than where I am. It’s because they’re more interesting people than those around me. There are no exotic people in here, no foggy-eyed wise men, no French flamboyance and certainly, certainly no beautiful, breathtaking, colossal mountains to behold.

Wrong. So very, very wrong of me to ever say such a thing.

Look Through Your Window

That same professor eventually stopped talking as he reached images he took in Lithuania during his visit. At first, I thought I understood why. There’s nothing interesting here, I kept repeating to myself. Nothing. And then he spoke again, and my jaw fell open. He spoke with the same enthusiasm as he did when he mentioned all the exotic corners of the world he’s been to. Exactly the same kind of enthusiasm and admiration. He was surprised by everything here, starting with architecture, moving on to our beautiful nature and forests, and finally to people. I was lost for words. What’s wrong with him? Or… hold on. What’s wrong with me?

Do New Yorkers think they have special taxis? While traveling by underground trains, do people in London think they are exceptional subjects for street portraiture? Quite, quite doubtful. Yet to us, each and every corner might seem special and different. Because we are used to different kinds of corners, used so much we barely notice them. We barely notice our people and how interesting they are. We barely notice our nature and how beautiful it is. I came to a simple conclusion, then. It’s not about being a tourist in some exotic Far East country. They don’t think they’re exotic. It’s about being a tourist where you live that allows you to see how extraordinary things you thought to be ordinary truly are. So how about, for a change, we look through our own window – metaphorically and literally, as is the case with the landscape above. I think we may find it well worth the effort.

And so Lithuania has a beautiful nature. There are beautiful, interesting, exotic people in here. Truth is, the fault is my own. I am the one who needs to learn to, first of all, notice all of that. And then, only once I know how to look and where to look, then I need to learn to photograph it. Perhaps, if you had similar doubts to mine, such conclusions are equally suitable for you?

You have your taxis, New Yorkers. I bet you don’t have inhabited greenhouses from the Land of Oz in your backyard like I do.


Avatar of Romanas Naryškin About Romanas Naryškin

A student and a wedding photographer with a passion for cinematography and writing. You'll see me buying film even when there's no food in the fridge. Follow me on Google+, Facebook or visit my wedding photography website to see some of my work.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Stefan

    Very nice article, Romanas!
    I totally agree with you!
    It’s always and only in your imagination – your inner eye, as Ansel Adams says it your Mind’s eye!
    That’s it!
    I try to be that tourist you’re talking about and walk where I live and find different angles, different story.
    And yet – from here to there I see some picture from somebody else, and I sit and enjoy and wonder – how he managed to see what I didn’t.
    It’s so amazing and that’s why we love photography. Even if we walk together I’ll have different images than you and they all will present something special and unique!

  2. 2
    ) Pravin

    Thanks for the inspiration to go out in our own backyards for a new perspective. We are a bunch of whiners. Always its about spending more on the next cool photography gadget to get the next great shot. But instead the fault is with us and our point of view.

    Thanks again.

  3. 3
    ) gary clark

    Again Roman, quite brilliant.

    I always think of Middlesbrough, England. In honesty we have the beaches, industrial and chemical works, moors, rivers, town halls and protected old buildings. Not far from here we have castles and forrests.

    One thing that always bothers me about the north east of England is the lag of good light we get for photography. Its always so dull and grey and as your last article said, there is only so far grim moody photos can be taken!

    Either way, you inspire the uninspired and for that you should be proud.

    Thank you Roman, I feel I should write about some of my photographic experiences and review the D3100 in a bit of detail for my friends and see what I can do regarding inspiring action and ideas in others.

    I hope you are well Roman.

    Gary

  4. Hi Romanas,

    Great article, and I try to do that everyday.. Thanks for an inspiring article…

    http:// http://www.flickr.com/photos/prakahbhikha
    http://prakashbhikha.com

    Regards,

  5. 5
    ) Bohdan

    Technically valuable stuff, thanx, but, man, don’t use that flamboyant language. Just too much.

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      7
      ) Romanas Naryškin

      Bohdan,

      technically? That’s the thing I was trying to avoid. Being technical. I’ve not used any flamboyance since my Mamiya review. Sort of thought it was about time I did, given some of us are photographers, and a few – artist. Don’t worry, you are safe for another 20 or so more technical articles. :)

  6. 6
    ) JR

    Hi Roman,

    I can’t recall the name of the photographer, although I’ve tried searching the net for her name but have come up short. She worked around the turn of the 20th century and did so exclusively in B&W; perhaps one of you know whom I’m referring to.

    The gist of the story is that she developed a world class portfolio and was published extensively without leaving her home; more accurately, she never left her back yard. She took pictures of flowers, plants and other objects in her back yard and, evidently, never got bored!

    The moral of the story: there’s a huge world right under our nose; if we care to look down and see it. But too often we’re looking far, into the horizon and overlooking what’s close to home.

  7. 8
    ) Shak

    Texas North and Central part is not a place for nature photography. Sometimes, I need to travel to Eastern part of Texas for better pictures. That might be the reason Tom Redd and Mansurovs living in Colorado :–) Hope this articles helps me for photographing whatever we’ve.

  8. 9
    ) Glenn

    You bring up some great points that I think many of us are guilty of. Being that my main interest is landscape I feel the same way living in Illinois. I get to my beloved New Mexico 2 or 3 times a year and it’s paradise to me. My problem is when I get back to Illinois I want to go back to New Mexico.

    I guess I’ll have to look harder in Illinois.

  9. 10
    ) Pads

    Wow, wakeup call for me! Nice article indeed. I’ve been posting photos mostly from all my travels. And now that you point this out, I realize I do not have that much photos from where I live. Tsk tsk, I need to look outside more often now.

  10. 11
    ) Winston

    Romnanas..I very much suspect you have very little concept of how exotic and wonderfully beautiful just the word and idea of Lithuania sounds to a Central Texas photographer. I will gladly trade you images of my beloved Texas Hill Country and West Texas for your superb captures of your marvelous land. I am Winston Cooper at whiskeycharliedos.com. Lithuania..the name is sweet on my tongue and easy in my mind. Lets visit…..

  11. You cannot bring the beauty of beaches of Bahamas in Bangalore for sure. But you can find beautiful aspects of life or earth in Bangalore that you cannot find in Bahamas. I guess that is what you are trying to say here.

    Cheers,
    Kumar

  12. 13
    ) paul witzig

    A beautiful piece Romanas, thank you.
    In an earlier life I spent maybe 20 years travelling & shooting 16mm film, which continually stimulated the flow of my creative juices and inspired me to capture the spirit of new and often unexpected places, people and situations.
    Our home territories lose that sense of excitement for us because we look through tired eyes,
    whereas visitors will view our worlds with a sense of wonder and discovery.
    A nice camera & lens can give us new eyes, and allow us to discover a wonderful new world right beneath our noses. This ability to re-discover is, I think, one of the great joys of photography.

  13. 14
    ) Ron Hiner

    Nice post… thanks for sharing. And thanks for the inspiration!

    I’ve always thought the most difficult place to photograph is my own backyard.

  14. 15
    ) Russ Gelardi

    Inhabited greenhouses from the Land of Oz? Jeeze, your intent in the article is right on, but the shot to illustrate the idea of your backyard transporting one to Oz is ludicrous. I have a lot to learn, but if that shot came up on my screen, the delete key would be my next move. I often limit myself to moving no more than twenty five feet from where I am to find an interesting image, and if I were to write and illustrate an article about that process I would try my best to come up with… well, an interesting image. I’m truly sorry to be so critical, but I’d really like to know what you feel makes that shot successful. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi: the picture isn’t everything, it’s the only thing
    Thanks, Russ

    • Avatar of Romanas Naryškin
      18
      ) Romanas Naryškin

      Perhaps I am not as good a photographer as you are, Russ. :) Yet I do think you took my ‘Land of Oz’ part just a tiny bit too seriously.

  15. 16
    ) Myo Kyaw

    Great article. I found great beautiful places in my home town, Yangon, Myanmar because of your article. :)
    Thanks

  16. Hello Romanas,

    A good article and great insight. I often feel the same way as you, that where I live is uninteresting, and other places are. In fact it seems that the farther I go from home, the more interesting it gets:-) Thanks for pointing out how wrong that perspective is. I think I’ll go out this weekend and photograph my city (Madison, WI) as if I were a tourist from overseas.
    Best Regards.

  17. 19
    ) Homero

    Great article Romana, what you wrote has been summarized by long ago by an old wise man: to see beautiful things, it is neccesary first to be beautiful.

  18. 20
    ) Peter Chapman

    I live 45 minutes by train from central London. I have several times wandered round taking black and white photos – assuming, like you, that London is good for street photography. But I have never been satisfied with the results. I always conclude that it is me at fault, not London.

  19. 21
    ) Love2Eat

    Brilliant article Romanas, it was so refreshing to read this than the usual spec and chart comparisons of gear all around us photography enthusiasts. Totally agree with you, I am certainly one of those people who hardly recognise or admire the beauty of the place where I live. As a German proverb goes “Abroad one has a hundred eyes, at home not one” (Im Ausland hat man hundert Augen, zu Hause nicht ein), this is good eye-opener :)

  20. Great thoughts! I have always admired those photographers that manage to make art out of their home surroundings – wherever they might be.

    Thanks/Tomas Järnetun, Sweden

  21. 23
    ) Ambrose

    How I wish I could go an a photo tour of Lithuania :)

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