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How Taking Pictures of Doors Has Changed My Life

A West Hartford door photographed last fall. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Deb Cohen of West Hartford, creator of ‘The Front Door Project,’ talks about how she got started.

A West Hartford door photographed last fall. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

A West Hartford door photographed last fall. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

By Deb Cohen

People often ask me how (and why?) I started talking photos of doors and homes. The next thing they ask is: “Does anyone ever ask you what you are doing?”

To answer the first question, it all began a little over a year ago in the spring of 2014. I needed to get more exercise and I had always enjoyed walking but would get bored walking alone. Due to my work schedule it was challenging to coordinate walking with a friend (which I still love to do when I can!)

Also, when walking alone, I sometimes found it gave me TOO much time to think, which as we all know isn’t always a good thing. So to combat boredom and my overactive brain, I needed a distraction.

Charming colonial home with sweetheart shutters. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Charming colonial home with sweetheart shutters. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

One of the things I love most about the town where I live, West Hartford, is the variety of architectural styles that are represented. We have countless Colonial Revival and Tudor style homes but lots of other styles are sprinkled in.

So I decided I would start taking photos of doors in town that I thought were particularly pretty or distinctive, or where the homeowner had clearly made an effort whether it be with a beautiful door color, potted plants, or a pretty wreath.

Using my iPhone I started snapping as I walked, and I haven’t stopped since. It is almost a form of meditation for me. When I’m walking and looking for what to shoot next, really paying attention to my surroundings, my mind doesn’t wander and I find it to be so relaxing. I’m “in the moment,” if you will.

Love the bright blue pots and yellow mums along with the fall wreath. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Love the bright blue pots and yellow mums along with the fall wreath. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

I realize as I walk and focus on details how much we miss every day as we go about our busy lives. Having a camera in my hand has changed how I see things and I now find beauty everywhere I go. Though I love to travel and see new places, I can just walk around the block and see something new as well.

The photos in this post were all taken within a quarter-mile of my home and I have walked past them dozens if not hundreds of times over the years, walking with my husband, pushing the kids in their strollers, walking the dogs, walking with a friend.

But as the seasons change, or depending on the light, nothing ever looks the same. Plants grow, flowers bloom, leaves change color, branches become bare, snow drifts across the yards.

Charming brick Tudor with inviting rockers out front. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Charming brick Tudor with inviting rockers out front. Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Homes get painted or renovated. New owners come in. Landscaping gets done. A walkway gets replaced. Trees get planted or removed. Halloween decorations, Christmas decorations. Everything is the same … but different.

Not every home looks picture perfect. Not everyone has the time or inclination or finances to keep their home immaculate. And that’s okay, but for those that do spend that extra time I want you to know I appreciate it, and I know many others do too. It gives us something pretty to look at and enjoy.

The “sideways” house, as we call it. It was for sale for a long time as it looked rather sad and tired, and its new owners have made it shine! Photo credit: Deb Cohen

The “sideways” house, as we call it. It was for sale for a long time as it looked rather sad and tired, and its new owners have made it shine! Photo credit: Deb Cohen

My simple little hobby that started with taking snapshots with my phone has become so much more. I have learned about photography, photo editing software and social media. I didn’t know what Instagram was, or how to use a hashtag, never mind Tweet.

I learned how to use WordPress to start this blog (although there is SO much more to know!) I started to learn about different architectural styles and became especially interested in historic architecture and historic preservation.

I became active in our town’s Historic Commission so that I could do my part in attempting to preserve our architecture which is a feature so many residents love and one that attracts new home buyers into the area.

Lovely Tudor with a big “Welcome” on the front door. Notice the intricately carved door frame! Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Lovely Tudor with a big “Welcome” on the front door. Notice the intricately carved door frame! Photo credit: Deb Cohen

My hobby has broadened my world in an amazing way. Just a couple of years ago I wondered what I would do if I found myself with a free day or afternoon. I honestly had no idea. Somehow over the years of working and raising children I had neglected my personal interests, as so many parents and especially mothers do.

I remember reading something somewhere (or who knows, maybe Oprah said it) that if you aren’t sure what to do just start doing something. Anything. Just pick one thing and go. You may start and you may find that it does nothing for you. Okay, move on to the next thing.

Or you may find, like I did, that one thing leads to another leads to another leads to another.

Stunning new construction on a double lot. So well done! Photo credit: Deb Cohen

Stunning new construction on a double lot. So well done! Photo credit: Deb Cohen

As far as that other question … does anyone ever ask you what you are doing? Honestly, almost never! I can count on one hand the number of times someone has asked me why I was taking a picture. I usually just say “Oh, I really admire your home.”

People are excited and flattered to have their home photographed, and I love it when someone recognizes their home on my social media accounts. I can guarantee you they are never upset!

Although it felt funny at first to stop and take a photo, I quickly got used to it. And just to be safe, I researched to be sure I wasn’t breaching any privacy laws.

This is a style I personally refer to as “storybook” or a “Hansel & Gretel” house. Fitting, don’t you think? Photo credit: Deb Cohen

This is a style I personally refer to as “storybook” or a “Hansel & Gretel” house. Fitting, don’t you think? Photo credit: Deb Cohen

What would you do if you had a free afternoon or day? I hope you already have a long list of things that you love to do that bring you joy. But if you don’t, and if that bothers you as it did me, I hope you find it.

I bet there is something you have thought about and wondered “should I try?” The answer is YES. Please let me know when you do!

If you do have a hobby or favorite pastime, I would love it if you would comment what it is … who knows, you might inspire someone else!

Deb Cohen of West Hartford started The Front Door Project in the summer of 2014 as a way to motivate herself to get outside, exercise and pay more attention to her surroundings. She began photographing homes with a primary focus on the front door, which is a welcoming focal point. Social media provided the means to share the photographs and a ready audience to follow along, and her new-found interest soon led to exploring other local area towns in my free time. The “project” has led to deeper interests in architecture, local history and historic preservation and came at a time in Deb’s life when she needed some inspiration. Please join Deb as she continues to share her everyday travels and explorations of other towns and places! You can find her other posts at www.thefrontdoorproject.com.

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We-Ha

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