Boring As An Aesthetic: The Merits Of Mediocrity

Jacob is sitting in the living room of an empty house on a Sunday afternoon. The lights are off, the TV is off, and it’s quiet except for birds chirping in a tree just outside an open window. 

He’s drawing a picture of a cliff with a pen on a sheet of notebook paper, copying it’s shape from a copy of National Geographic, sometimes adding cracks that aren’t in the photograph, and filling in the background with swirly clouds above the horizon and little triangular trees below. He kills thirty minutes making the little pine trees, leaving a space open, where he adds little swirls to depict a lake reflecting the sky.

Jacob signs and dates the paper in the top right corner and folds the sketch into his bifold. He puts on a dark red sweater and grabs his 35mm point and shoot, filled with black & white film, and goes for a walk around the neighborhood. 

His subject is always the same— houses, houses without anyone in the garden or on the porch, no dogs in the yard. He never goes outside of his own neighborhood, never goes out into the woods or to the city or even just to the park. The only thing easier to photograph would be the inside of his own house, but that would be too interesting.

Jacob doesn’t have any purpose for photographing the houses. He isn’t documenting anything about them. If there was something less interesting and easier to photograph he would photograph that. He just likes the process. 

He collects thirty-six impressions of focused light, takes them home, develops them in his chemicals in a makeshift darkroom in the basement, then uses an enlarger to make 4” x 6” prints. Jacob isn’t making photographs that’ll be featured in a gallery or magazine or blog. He doesn’t even share them with anyone close to him. 

Jacob sits back down in the living room, puts the photographs in the sleeves of a blank white photo book, and kills an hour looking through the whole book until the last photo he took, studying for any subtleties that he hadn’t noticed before. When he does notice something, like a cat in a windowsill, he doesn’t get excited, he simply acknowledges it exists.