Breaking the Rules – Playing with Photography

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a workshop by a truly inspiring photographer named Matthew Wheeler. Matthew is a well-known Canadian artist who makes his own camera lenses out of ice and shoots through them. He embraces creativity and chance, encouraging you to play, follow your instincts, and ignore the established rules of Photography. He’s agreed to do an interview for Growing Creative Kids, so keep an eye out for it in an upcoming post!

In the meantime, here are a few ideas I took from the workshop. I hope it inspires you to pull out your camera and rummage through your house to find your own unique materials to shoot with.

Spending an afternoon with your kids breaking rules, getting messy and exploring how you see the world is a great way to get creative and make memories. The best thing about this activity is you could probably do it every week and discover something new and unexpected every time. The following are some of the discoveries I made while breaking the rules.

Cellophane – Held right against your lens, cellophane will create some really unique and unexpected results. The results are similar to post-production manipulation, but have a more organic feel:

Copyright 2011 Sheena Witter


Ice Filters – Ice filters can be created by freezing water on a cookie sheet and breaking apart into pieces. (Please see the comments below for a suggestion from Matthew) A frosty lens won’t work very well, so rub the ice on the counter or in the sink to melt it a bit. It is ice, so wear a glove or wrap a piece of paper towel around the ice to hold it, otherwise it’ll be too cold! You can imprint the filter with lines or patterns to create different effects that are uniquely your own. My favorite ice lens was created when someone rinsed the lens off in hot water, instead of cold; the ice cracked and fractured but stayed together, resulting in a spiderweb of white running through it:

Copyright 2011 Sheena Witter


There are many things you can use to create filters. I shot through a bit of mesh screen, while others in the class shot through tea strainers and even leaves that had been chewed by insects.

Choose a subject. Many ordinary objects can be seen in a new creative light. I used toys and signs, and took pictures of pictures I had taken before – with a different filter, you transform something ordinary and see it in completely new and exciting way!

Experiment with different objects, almost anything can be used – mirrors, CDs, water, tinfoil, and thread bobbins can all work as filters, backgrounds, or subjects!

Copyright 2011 Sheena Witter

Copyright 2011 Sheena Witter


I was amazed that you can get 10 people in a small space, use the same supplies, and create completely different and unique pictures, using materials in ways I would have never imagined. It is photography stemming from a place of creativity and curiosity instead of just technical skill. I found the workshop invigorating, refreshing, and renewing to my creative spirit. Matthew will be having an exhibit at the Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, BC  from July 15th to October 9th, and if you’re in the area I absolutely recommend you check it out!

I hope you will embrace the creative potential in the everyday objects in your house with your family. Try breaking the rules and creating your own unique photographs. If you find one you love and would like to have it added to this article, please email it to me so we can all share and be inspired by the leap into unconventional photography.

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Posted in Activites/Games, Creativity/Inspiration.

One Comment

  1. Comment From Matthew Wheeler:

    “I should note one little thing, that in the part about freezing ice in the tray, I’d suggest adding that people may want to experiment by harvesting the ice at different thicknesses and before it freezes down to the bottom, as at that point it tends to fracture and fill up with bubbles.”

    Thank you Matthew!

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