The Bathroom Exercise

One of my all time favorite books for inspiration and creativity is Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson. In it, he discusses principles of composition and visual design, and provides techniques and exercises for exploring untraditional concepts. He also talks about barriers to seeing, and how to observe, imagine and express your art in a personal and creative way.

One of the exercises in his book is called the bathroom exercise, and I recommend this in all my seminars for photographers (and other artists) learning to see instead of look.

Take your camera and lock yourself in your bathroom for at least 20 minutes. Take at least 20 photos of something unique. If you’re not struggling to find images by the end of the 20 minutes, stay a little longer.

The key to this exercise is not to get wall-quality images. It’s to look at familiar objects and begin to see them in unfamiliar ways.

For example, look at the chrome on the faucet. Really look at it and see it. What’s there? Do you see reflections? Are they distorted or clear?

Turn on the water and let it drip. Can you capture an image as the water has just dropped? Watch the drops for a moment. Are they regular? Can you anticipate the next one? Or are they random?

If there is a window in the bathroom, look at the screen. What do you see? If you throw some water on the screen, what does it look like now? If you look really close, can you see reflections from outside?

mirrorcandleWhen I first read about this exercise, my first reaction was "20 minutes in a small bathroom taking photos? How much can there be?"

But once you stop to think about it and actually start seeing instead of looking, you’ll find that there is a wealth of images, just waiting for you to discover them.

This candle image is an example from my first try with this exercise.

(All images on this blog can be clicked to enlarge)

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