I’ve worked as a freelance documentary photographer for the past several years, looking toward my family, my community, and the outside world for potential inspiration. Each week, as I pack my camera and step out the front door, I am met with the same realization: true beauty lies in simplicity. I often discover the most meaningful and thought-provoking images while going about my daily life. Nothing spectacular. Nowhere extravagant. Just life.
I remember preparing for a photo shoot at a local park, scouting the area to decipher which spots would be most suitable for a portrait that depicts nature as a character. While scribbling down notes, I heard the sound of hooves clacking against the warm pavement. I turned around to discover an older man dressed in a slick denim jacket and a straw hat, perched atop a stunning white horse.
As all photographers do when they recognize a great photo opportunity, I immediately requested his permission to photograph him. He agreed, and I excitedly captured the vivid scene. We spoke briefly about his passion for equestrianism, and I mentioned my previous project documenting horse riders in East Compton.
Our small conversation ended, and he rode off into the distance. Like many documentarians before me, I always felt the need to travel long distances in search of a story that intrigues me. While the pursuit is noble, some of the best narratives are often waiting right down the street. The resulting image reminds me that I can discover beauty just as easily at a local park as I could in a quiet field or a peaceful beach miles away from home.
The invaluable experience prompted me to try and discover depth and meaning in familiar sights. I recently found myself photographing the architecture of mobile homes in the complex that my aunt resides in. I might’ve disregarded the setting’s potential had I not witnessed the rider at the park. But through that simple encounter, I was able to notice both the beauty that surrounded me and the beauty that resided within me. Creating art that promoted an understanding and an appreciation for the commonplace allowed me to self-reflect on aspects of my identity I may have overlooked. Because I move so quickly, I often fail to recognize what’s directly in front of me. Photographing daily life allowed me to take a step back and to cherish the moment.