In May of 2008, on a trip to Arizona, I found myself photographing beautiful circular patterns in sandstone. I mentioned to a friend that I loved the simplicity of natural circles, and their sometimes unexpected appearance in nature. She suggested that I start a “Circles Project”.
In the back of my mind, I also thought about a book I read to my children a thousand times when they were small – the quiet, beautiful story of a little girl who lacked confidence in her own artistic ability - The Dot – by Peter H. Reynolds. If you haven’t read it – I highly recommend it. The lesson rings true no matter your age, and the book is one of just a few that I’ll keep in my own personal collection even after my children are grown.
(For those who are interested, Mr. Reynolds has written other excellent books as well. Another favorite of mine is titled “Ish.” Again, these are children’s stories… but no less relevant because they were meant for a young audience. I’ve met thousands of adults who struggle with the same issues.)
Anyway – with that story and my friend’s suggestion in mind, I set out to capture a series of natural circles. I’ve been shooting circles for more than three years… ever since that trip to Arizona… and I’ll continue to add to the collection over time. Even now, after all this time, there is something about natural circles that reminds me to simplify… my life, my composition, my thought processes.
Personal projects are a great way to keep the creative juices flowing.. and to focus your photographic vision over time. Although I am always shooting other things as well – shooting circles is like adding to those fun collections we had as kids. Bottle caps or stamps or coins. But there’s something of myself in this collection, too. It’s more personal.
You can see that my circle images are pretty different from one another. Tiny pebbles in circles carved from solid rock… mud bubbles formed as gas escapes from underground… patterns in the sand that were created as grasses moved in the wind… lichen growing on rocks…
The variety is part of what makes the project so appealing to me. You start with a single image – a single idea – and pretty soon, you start seeing things in an entirely different light. I find circles in places I wouldn’t expect to find them!
I love finding another circle to add to my collection. So why not create your own project or assignment. Think about what appeals to you – something that interests you or defines you in some way. Take a simple theme and spin it – I think you’ll find that it becomes far more than you expected!