But to answer the question for myself. I stay interested in antique stores because I have four major themes. Each is different enough from the others that alternating prevents any boredom. And I always find a few thing to photograph that do not fit into any of the themes—simply targets of opportunity.
Juxtapositioning—this is a very old theme that simply happens to apply to antique stores. When I find interesting items that can be included in a single image I want to see if I can get them to make a statement. You would think that with all the interesting objects available in antique stores this would be a frequently used theme. Surprisingly it isn’t. It is actually fairly difficult because of the variety of objects. Finding two or more together that works and can be isolated into an interesting composition doesn’t happen that often. When I do use it there is almost always some religious connotations involved.
Freaky Toys—I am always surprised when I look at toys in antique stores that any of us grew up normal. Then again, maybe we didn’t. I love freaky toys and one day hope to do something with all the photographs I have collected. Freaky toys actually came to my interest one day when I wasn’t finding anything of interest in a very large antique store. As I walked along looking for inspiration I began to notice how strange some of the toys appeared. It wasn’t a matter of simply photographing toys, although I do shoot dolls frequently because of their human metaphor, it was the very strange toys and there is plenty in that category.
Religious artifacts—this is a theme that goes back to shooting in the Missions in San Antonio in 2007. It takes several different paths but usually involves Catholic religious artifacts, predominately the crucifix. The Price of Christ portfolio which I did a couple or three years ago can only be done in an antique store because it requires a price tag in each of the images. I have slacked off considerably on looking for crucifix with price tags but I still occasionally find one that I have to photograph. Themes never end or go away. They may go into a period of inactivity but they always there in the back of my mind to call on when needed.
Artificial People—this is probably the most consistent theme. I generally call it Artificial Women but I do occasionally photograph a male manikin or bust. My favorite subject to photograph is people. Both Freaky Toys and Artificial People are to a great extent a takeoff on photograpning people. I will photograph anything that takes on the human form or features.
Alcy and I spent about an hour today roaming one of our favorite antique stores out on FM2920 near where she works. Today I didn’t find any crucifix or do much with toys, it was mostly manikins that caught my attention.
I know that shooting in antique stores frequently would not appeal to most photographers. I have frequently heard photographers complain about the price tags but they don’t bother me. Yes I don’t always include tags but when it is not avoidable it simply adds location.
I have found that shooting in antique stores is a great place to improve the way you see light, an excellent way to learn to extract your subject from a clutter of unrelated objects and an interesting place to practice composition. I personally believe that my photography has improved, is improving, as a result of working in antique stores. The truth is what I just mentioned applies to shooting frequently in any location of interest to you. At first you do the ‘usual’ but eventually you exhaust the usual and have to start looking for something fresh. The farther you get from the usual, at least in my opinion, the more likely you are to become a better photographer. At least that is what I tell myself when I am photographing in the same location for the umpteenth time.
Oh yes, I might mention that I was trying a new, for me, camera technique today. I generally shoot aperture priority or manual but I was recently reading a piece that suggested using Auto ISO, selecting both an aperture and a shutter speed and letting the camera adjust ISO. Never worked that way so I thought I would give it a try. Started out with f/5.6 @ 1/125 using the 35-100mm (equiv 70-200) on the Panasonic. The first results were too dark so I went to f/4.5 at 1/50 and that seemed to work well. When I downloaded I checked the ISOs and was surprised to see that none went over 1600. There was a time when anything but the native ISO presented a problem. Most new cameras handle higher ISO very well and I was pleased with the 1600 on the Panasonic. I have Topaz Denoise but only used it on one of the images. It’s a technique that I may play with a little more to see how I like it.