I’d wager that most passionate photographers have at least one, if not more specific subjects that they just obsess over and never tire of. Wildlife, people, architecture or maybe something more specific like a loved one or favorite hiking view. Realizing this can often feel like a great new song you’ve worn out too quickly and lead to thinking you should move on from potential stagnation and branch out. And you should. But maybe also give in a bit to the urge to return to that same thing again and maybe… lean right into it more than you generally would. You may be surprised at how much more there is to find.
Near the edge of downtown Los Angeles on Bunker Hill sits a building that houses the local Department of Water and Power. Surrounded by pools of water with fountains that light up at night and a public walkway that is open nearly all the time, this gorgeous piece of architecture is almost subdued from a distance yet incredibly striking up close. Built in 1965 and more recently renamed after legendary councilman John Ferraro, the building supports thousands of employees, has gardens and drinking fountains, and a cleverly hidden, solar-powered parking area that can only be seen when you’re walking up to the building.
I’ve taken hundreds of photos of it.
A while back, I posted about shooting with friends and the benefits that can yield. While living in the city for almost a decade now, it’s only recently that I really discovered the building. Shooting it while out with those friends not only created the origin point for this little love affair but has brought me back so many times. There was a point where the thought had occurred that maybe it was time to find another building or thing to explore. But I just keep going back.
Film, digital, wide angle, zoom, my phone, and even a drone. There have been a lot of tools that have come along for round after round of studying, staring, and shooting and yet there are still so many angles and ideas left. Even just writing this piece swells my brain with theories for shots. It’s an ever-renewing feeling of inspiration that not only brings me back but also prevents me from feeling like I’ve done too much. It’s tempting to try and find this in everything I like about photography, but in reality, I don’t seem to choose the subject, as the cliché goes, it chooses me.
Really leaning into something breaks open a whole new world to explore. Take some photos and then obsess over the details and become an expert. Stare at it silently for a while and then put on some headphones, play a favorite song and stare a little more. Steep yourself in the history or make up your own. Leave it alone for a while and come back. Maybe even daydream about it. If any of these things just happen as a natural instinct, follow it and see how much further it can go. Zen and the Art of Whatever You Love.
It’s been hard to pinpoint what parts of photography that attracts me the most. Oftentimes the response is just “fine art photography” but the honest answer is that I just don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to either. Maybe finding places like the John Ferraro Building is the real trick. Even if it’s not, it certainly fills some creative coffer deep inside. When I ask myself what I want to get out of photography, it sure seems like there’s a great answer down the highway a bit and atop Bunker Hill.