Seeing Things with New Eyes by Lee starnes


I’ve lived in Saigon for over 5 years now, and unfortunately, I find myself shooting Saigon less and less these days. What was novel is now the norm, shoots go on autopilot, the penny is less shiny. blah blah blah you know how it goes…in a nut shell, I got bored. And boredom is the biggest disease in the world, darling.

So, over the past 6 months, I’ve started working with my friend Quinn, on Saigon Photo Tours. As most of you know, I teach workshops with Pics of Asia in Central Vietnam and in Sri Lanka (hint hint), but I haven’t done more than a few here in Saigon due to a myriad of reasons - too busy with commercial work, watching the back of my eyelids, or countless other excuses. And that’s exactly what they are - excuses. The wonder and excitement of exploration isn’t limited to visiting strange lands. Finding beauty in the mundane and falling in love with photography all over again is something that doesn’t take much - at least for me. Getting off my ass and shooting something in my own backyard while teaching and being an ambassador to the city I live in has given me such a renewed lease on my creativity and photography. These locations aren’t new for me. Most of them I’ve visited over a dozen times. But, there’s always something interesting or unseen - another angle, a different personality, a new texture.

I had one such tour this week and it forced me to look at things with new eyes. I looked at familiar locations with a different perspective. As I suggested to Lukas to slow down and take it all in before shooting, I realized I do the exact same thing when I go back to places I’ve been before. That moment that gave a bit of pause and I chose to follow my own advice. What a difference it made! It allowed me to search out details, textures and let it all sink in before I rushed off clicking happily away.

Teaching photography has forced me to look inward at my own work with blunt, and often brutal, honesty. It has not only improved the quality of my work, but also enabled me to be a better teacher and offer students better insight on telling more compelling stories.

For me, the act of shooting is every bit as amazing as putting the final image out into the world. It’s my ticket to see the world, to interact with amazing people, and to create and share amazing stories. It’s my sense of self therapy, it’s my outlet and is my act of being present. When I get stuck in a rut, sometimes I have to remind myself of these simple things and slow down and let it all sink in.

I’d love to hear back from you about how you get out of those ruts. Drop a comment below and let me know!