Spotlight on: Photographing the unnoticed

Anya Muir Wood 13 February 2014

I am in my final year of Geography at Downing College, and it was through my degree that I developed a new reason to love photography.

I enthusiastically decided to spend a month alone in New York City to carry out research for my dissertation. While there, I found that taking photos was a great creative outlet, and also proved a reliable companion when there was nobody else with whom to share the weird and wonderful things that I saw.

I took a very lightweight digital SLR camera with me which meant I could carry it everywhere, capturing both the exciting tourist highlights as well as the not-so-everyday streets of New York. To this end, I highly recommend the photography blog (and book) Humans of New York, which captures the daily lives of the fantastic and unusual residents of the city. Their photos are coupled with a brief but insightful interview, and it presents a very visual, human side to the concrete jungle. 

Inspired by this, I tried to seek out a view or person that nobody else was noticing – with a camera in hand you are driven to look for the undiscovered. I love to capture unassuming nature at its finest. Some of my favourite shots are those which catch my friends off guard – at their most beautiful – when they don’t even notice the shutter’s click.

Travelling alone afforded me the time to try and capture exactly the unexploredview I wanted, as I find taking photos involves trial and error (maybe because I stubbornly refused help in learning to use my camera), but when it comes together my determination makes it all the more satisfying. The Statue of Liberty framed by the dancing fountains, caught with a short focal length that froze the water in mid- air, took patience. 

Back in Cambridge, my camera encourages me to step outside of college to explore the city, such as walking around the Botanical Gardens where a different delight can be found in waiting to be photographed in each and every season. As well as taking a photo of every angle of Downing’s Grecian columns and documenting the many reactions to Formal Hall, I am now very much looking forward to graduating and taking my camera further afield to explore some new angles. Cambridge has just helped me look through the lens in new ways. Photography has encouraged me to take on a more observant perspective, as I have found every adventure can be improved by noticing the unnoticed.