My first years taking photos (starting at the age of 12, with my father’s 30-year-old Pentax Spotmatic) involved taking many photos of walls, lines, geometric patterns, and textures near my home. Growing up in the Midwestern suburbs, I tended toward either abstracts or conceptual pieces — either focusing on the details of the world around me or creating dreamlike settings, both options that conveniently left out the inoffensive but bland surroundings I saw every day.
Through college, I focused more on the conceptual, probably because I had a lot of free time. Or if not free time, odd hours to fill with something — anything — other than the academic. And taking a large number of photo classes was also a good excuse to develop elaborate ideas and setups, pushing into the realm of my imagination, engaging in some navel-gazing, and spending way too much time trying to figure out at exactly what hour the light would be at the perfect angle.
A wall in Toulouse, and another in Paris
Now that I work, though, I’ve found myself wandering back (often literally) to the more observational style of photography that I was originally so drawn to. As I bike and run around Portland or other cities around the world, my eye fixes on the little details. And as I’ve come around to relying on my cellphone for more spontaneous work (a role that my DSLR filled before I finally got sick of lugging that behemoth around), I’ve noticed a pretty obvious pattern: I like to take photos of walls. Or at the very least, vertical, flat surfaces with interesting patterns, colors, patinas. They’re often where the natural and the urban meet and meld,
A few more from Vietnam
Now I seek them out a little more actively. I’m hoping to launch a standalone project sometime soon, although it happens to be on a list of many. But hey — keep an eye out for pdxwallproject.com, or you can find the ones I post on Instagram. Different parts of the world have different walls. Vietnam was full of older atmospheric ones and graffiti, but Portland is a mix of clean lines, nature, and urban grime.
A couple I stumbled across in Northeast Portland while out on a run
I’ve also had fun going back to some of the same placed years later. The two photos below are the same wall on Ohio State University’s campus. I took them a few years apart on different stints home from school, each time struck by a different component of the setting’s beauty.
The same wall, a few years apart, in two different seasons, and across the digital/film divide
Things change, and grow, and crumble. But I still like to take photos of walls.