What do Velcro, X-Rays, and the Slinky have in common? They’re important discoveries and inventions that happened because of chance. They each came about because observant people with open minds were paying attention. Photographer Benjamin Lowy longs for that similar “Eureka” moment, and he says it was more common when working with film-based technologies than it is in the digital realm.
“We live in this time where we’re given these tools, and we all follow instructions to a tee. The digital world is so precise that there is no chance left to the photo gods. So I’m always trying to create space for that moment,” Lowy says.
In search of some serendipity and a way to show the world around him in a less calculated, more visceral way, Lowy started playing around with different apps until he struck upon a satisfying process. “It came using a timelapse application that wasn’t meant to be used for what I was using it for, walking two or three blocks, and then creating one image from that entire block.” The resulting photos are what Lowy calls “Walkscapes”—single images that are compiled from 30-100 frames taken on a short walk that are then compressed into one photo.
“I think sometimes people notice. But it’s as if I’m some sort of crazy tourist or someone walking while having a FaceTime conversation,” he jokes. For Lowy, this is tame. He’s gotten used to putting himself out there in the public space as a photojournalist since he began his career documenting war. Recently, he has had reason to search for new subject matter. “Now I have kids and have moved to the suburbs. It’s definitely impacted me. So this is me trying to basically put a spark in myself, figure out some more creativity, and keep on working.”
So far, it’s been successful. “It’s actually been one of the most fun things I’ve been working on in a long while. I really enjoy making them. Let’s say I’m on my way to assignment or I’m picking my kids up from school, I just put myself in this mindset where I’m like, ‘Okay, I’m not doing my street photography stuff now. I want to feed another part of my soul.’ It’s more about my journey down the street. For the first time, I’m not really aware of everything else around me.”
In addition to keeping his photography practice sharp, Lowy thinks that the series has helped him to break through the deluge of images and communicate with people in a fresh way. “I think a lot about the medium and about photography’s place. That’s sort of been at the forefront of thinking about how to innovate with new technology,” he says. “At the end of the day the most important thing to me is to figure out how to get people to look at images so they don’t get lost in the fray.”