Half-week homework: Thrift stores

We, as a society, go through a lot of stuff. I don’t mean that in a bad way, necessarily—quite to the contrary, in many cases—but it’s all got to go somewhere. When the stream of non-consumables flows a little too high somewhere, it either soaks back into the ground to decay or finds an alternative path, nourishing new land. Yes, I’m talking about thrift stores!

The second-hand market is a great way to prevent waste and stave off the need to pay full price for yet another thing when the same thing already exists, waiting for a need to fill.

Or a day to brighten!

The process of collecting and distributing second-hand goods introduces an element of chance to this type of store’s selection which is unparalleled in any other industry. It’s a lot of fun to hunt for uncommon music or just the right thing for your household needs, but next time you go to the thrift store or flea market, try bringing your camera to take advantage of the variety in an artistic way! The unpredictable array of goods can be a gold mine for inspiration and an invaluable source of off-beat tools for your photography.

Mirrors are usually in plentiful supply, and often with creative frames or etched designs to boot. I won’t get into all the things you can do with a mirror and a camera (this time) but you can check out the photo at the top of the page if you need an example. Then, take a couple home for no more than a few bucks and beef up your light-altering toolbox.

For that matter, the thrift store is a great place to hunt for any kinds of props. Hats, genuine (or fake!) vintage clothing, and miscellaneous accessories for your models abound; bizarre tchotchkes will take your sets from the plain and boring to the memorably unique; distinctive furniture will let you transport your images to rooms across time and space—the sky’s the limit!

Bringing another person along is a great idea. A human element in the photo can really bring the cultural detritus to life, placing the story of the image at the forefront and making it easy to miss where the photo was actually taken. If your romantic partner’s open to photo adventures, it can even make for a fun date! Of course, you don’t need a real person… the figurines, toys, and more provide an infinite array of potential still-life setups.

I spent less than an hour gathering the photos in this article, and I ended up having too many! Like with the old I Spy books, the more you look, the more subjects you’ll find and the more creative you’ll get. So, walk through that mysterious door and get inspired! (PSA—if something really catches your eye, be sure to buy it! The folks at my local shop enjoyed our photo-hunting, but they only exist thanks to the active patronage of those who enjoy their continued existence, as is the case with any small business.)

Don’t forget to share your results with the rest of us. I would love to see the unique treasures you save from being lost to time, so post ’em to our Facebook page or Instagram tagged with #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework!

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