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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

The Way You See

Abstract triangle shapes against a field of black

Ordinary things can surprise us by revealing a charm, elegance or quirkiness that's easily overlooked. In the end, it all comes down to how we view the world.

It's true in life, and definitely true in photography.

As the famed photographer Elliott Erwitt said, artistry “has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”


In the case of the photo above, a moment of pure serendipity happened at our kitchen table. I had ordered a pack of 5x7 photographic mats which were delivered with four plastic corner pieces to prevent damage during shipping. When I removed the mats from the shipping box, the corner pieces fell onto the table.


I set the mats down after I examined them. Then I scooped up the plastic pieces and, with absolutely no artistic intentions, dropped them in the middle of the mats. I was intrigued by the impromptu arrangement, which to me resembled a framed piece of abstract art. Inspired to take it a step further, I put black mounting board underneath one of the mats, rearranged the plastic pieces to my liking and ended up with the minimalist photo you see here.


Elliott Erwitt was right. If we change the way we look at things, we find joy and beauty everywhere, even in cheap plastic packaging pieces.

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