Beyond the Commonplace, Week 48

Words transmigrate. The word “commonplace” once meant exactly what it looks like, a “common” area or “place”. A commonplace book was a “common place” to park a written collection (much like a scrapbook) of notes from speeches, aphorisms, enlightening quotes, significant passages read, etc. “Commonplacing” was so popular in early modern Europe that schools such as Oxford actually taught their students the craft of commonplacing. John Milton, John Locke, and in later centuries even Auden and Forster kept commonplace books. (One could argue that Tumblr is the ancient art's progeny). Today, the word “commonplace” has transmigrated (though rather in reverse) to a drab little word meaning trite or unremarkable.

I am a hack photographer (photog poseur to be more specific) but I enjoy taking pictures even though I don’t technically know what I’m doing. I was inspired by my friend Jennifer’s new post series, a compendium of her photos taken throughout the week which she refers to as her field journal. Blatantly stealing, I’m doing the same here with my photos, entitling my posts in this series “Beyond the Commonplace”. The phrase ties together two epochs of time by uniting the two meanings: a common-place (location) where I will post reflections of the world I see through my lens each week and beyond the commonplace (ordinary) to emphasize that there is always something slightly ineffable in the seemingly mundane.

All photos were taken with my mirrorless Olympus E-PL5.


Running shot. This is a nondescript, barely noticeable spot along a highway. If you were to pan back and view the scene around it, you wouldn't think it so picturesque (shows what framing a shot can do). From the picture it looks like a set piece from Gone With the Wind or Brigadoon (which I shamelessly enjoy). Far back against the backdrop is the small silhouette of a cow grazing.


Another running shot. Taking shots of spectacular sunsets feels like cheating. I run so I can chase sunsets like these though, it's the kind of shot that is yours to screw up, your sole responsibility is to hold the camera steady and pause to enjoy. To hell with average pace, sunsets make me stop running while that incessant, beating clock beckons.


A deep fog rolled in "on little cat feet" as Carl Sandburg would say. I missed too many opportunities to relish it with my camera but I did stop to take a few shots on my meandering path to work. Later, I read a poem by Csezlaw Milosz whose words encapsulate this photo: "Landscapes caressed by mists or struck by the sun."