Seeing Charlotte With Fresh Eyes (Part 1)

Photos © Paul Cotter Photography

After moving to the West Coast six years ago, I've been happy to reconnect with our roots in Charlotte, NC where we'd previously been living since 1999. As a dad, I love being back with our kids and our new granddaughter in Charlotte. As a photographer, it's been invigorating to revisit familiar places and see them with fresh eyes.

My friend Joanne in Pittsburgh asked an interesting question about the experience. She asked, "Are you seeing things differently now than you did when you photographed in Charlotte before?"  I've looked at my work and I've thought about my approach, and the answer is yes.


Years ago, I was capturing a more literal interpretation of the city. Back then, I focused on buildings and architectural details, on the lines and shapes and patterns that filled the frame in an aesthetically pleasing way.

When I photograph the city today, I still look for these strong compositional elements. But I find that I'm also looking for something more. Something deeper.

When I roam the city streets with my camera now, I'm less interested in literal interpretations. I'm more interested in capturing the soul of the place -- the mood, the feel, the river of life that runs through it.

I'm also looking to show things in unique and unexpected ways -- getting people to see things from a fresh perspective, revealing a mode of seeing they hadn't considered before.

The emphasis is on the word seeing.  None of the images shown here are the result of digital trickery. No compositing, no special effects, no funky filters were used in post-processing. Instead, I tried to alter my perspective while shooting to see the everyday things around me in a different way.  

In some ways, Charlotte itself has changed over the past several years. That's inevitable, as nearly one million people have moved here in the past decade. Construction cranes are everywhere. Some places I loved are gone, and many interesting new places have appeared.

But perhaps what's changed more significantly than the city is my own personal perspective. To return to my friend Joanne's question -- do I see the city differently now? -- yes, I do. I see everything a little differently than I did 5 years or 10 years ago.

As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said,  "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."

In this blog, I shared some of my new color photographs of Charlotte.  In Part 2 next month, I'll share my new black & white photos of the city. It's a different river. Stay tuned.

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~ Paul