Philip Habib makes a point to examine the everyday things in his environment. “There are objects and people you see so often on a regular basis that they could become invisible if you don’t stop to notice how necessary they are,” says the 52-year-old photographer.
Habib, who lives in Chappaqua, NY, was often struck by certain utility poles and their linking cables at intersections in the nearby town of Pleasantville. “They stand out against the landscape, which made me notice them each time I drove by,” he says. “It made me think how strange it is how little attention we pay to these lines that connect people across regions.”
So early one overcast morning, he took his Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 24–135mm f/3.5–5.6 Canon EF lens and shot the wires all day, from sunrise through sunset. He’d chosen gray weather because he wanted the wires and poles to stand out in stark contrast against the sky.
But when he looked at the images, this contrast wasn’t enough. Not until a few months later, after playing with them in Adobe Photoshop, did he decide what he wanted to do with them.
The compositions reminded him of the Dutch Modernist painter Piet Mondrian. “In my earlier still-life photography, Mondrian was a big influence, and the electrical lines reminded me of his works in yellow, red, and blue,” says Habib.
With this insight, he masked off the background using Photoshop CS5’s Color Range tool, then fine-tuned the lines with a hard-edged brush. Next, he replaced the backgrounds with shades of red, yellow, and white that matched Mondrian’s palette, other than the lighter shade of blue, to enhance contrast.
The full series was displayed in late 2011 at the Anyway Around Gallery in Brooklyn. And Habib continues to explore ubiquitous subjects, most recently brown paper bags. “If we see something everywhere, especially if it’s an inanimate object, we tend to ignore its context,” he says. “But if that object is everywhere, there’s a good reason to pay attention.”
See more of Philip Habib’s work at philiphabib.com.