Today’s photo: Alice needs fortification to start her day.
Today’s lesson: Learning your way around the camera is as much about learning your way around your own imagination as it is about the camera.
I started using Alice as a photo prop a few months ago. My friend bought a dress mannequin for her house, and I thought it was great. I kept thinking it would make a great prop. I wanted to take the mannequin to the jogging track and to the lake to fish and all kinds of other places just to have something fun and quirky to photograph. A full-sized mannequin, though, would a bigger investment in both money and effort than I really wanted to make. Luckily enough, I still had the mannequin on my mind when I spotted Alice on the shelf at Big Lots for only about $10. She has certainly paid for herself by now just in the fun I’ve had with her.
Props are a good way to get you through a 365 project. I spent a lot of days in the past two years just walking outside and finding something pretty or interesting to snap, but that doesn’t always keep you going, especially if, like me, you are something of a homebody, and you don’t have a very big yard to wander around in (or garden for my British friends). Props are also a good way to teach you the difference between discovering something to photograph and creating something to photograph. I’m still just a hobbyist, but I find equal value and equal pleasure in both approaches.
The main value of props, I think, is that they help you learn photography as an act of storytelling. If you photograph people or animals or bugs or anything animate, there is always a story to tell, and your shots will be so much more interesting if you can capture that story. Doing a series of photos with the same prop forces you to make up a story for the shot, unless of course you don’t mind just doing the same thing over and over.
Alice suits me. She’s quirky. She has attitude. She has style. And there’s just no telling what she might get up to next.