Becky Mairi Farrell: Extraordinarily Ordinary

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Becky Mairi Farrell challenges us to take a camera for a walk and discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.

drain cover

How often do any of us really look at our everyday surroundings? How often do we just travel on autopilot, our mind’s eye fixed on thoughts of other things? Imagine a route you walk often, perhaps to the bus stop or corner shop. Can you name ten noteworthy things you pass on that ordinary journey?

I’m visually impaired and I’m an artist. When out on a walk one of my friends said to me; “I can see better than you, but you see more.”  I think this is because being an artist is only fractionally about the end product. It’s a process of learning to see – experience the world – more fully. Anyone can participate in this process, whether or not you ever put pencil to paper, though drawing definitely helps.

Taking a camera for a walk is a good way to start seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. A few years ago I made a book called Fifty Yards. It’s a collection of fifty photos taken within fifty yards of where I used to live. I lived in a tall thin house in a terrace of other tall thin houses on a street crisscrossed with other terraces. An ordinary city street. I photographed knots in fences, peeling paint, markings in the road, patina on brick and railings, drain covers. I do have a secret passion for drain covers. Take a look next time you’re out. Most roads have several and they’re almost never the same as each other. They almost always have at least one line of symmetry in their pattern, like the one pictured here. Some have two or even three lines of symmetry. Some are clogged with leaves or rubbish, others give a view to surprisingly clear water. Seriously, you’ll be amazed!

Why not give this challenge a go? Next time you follow your familiar route, take your camera or pull out your phone. If fifty photos seems too many aim for ten. Ten photos of details you see every day but never really noticed before. You don’t even have to do anything with the photos unless you want to. But I bet that, once you’ve taken this challenge, when you walk the route in the future you’ll feel little flurries of recognition at those extraordinary details you’ve discovered in the ordinary.

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