Exercise 5.2: (P.108): (A View From A Window)


The French writer Georges Perec wrote a book called An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1975) in which he wrote down everything he could see from a certain viewpoint. You may like to read it.

Choose a viewpoint, perhaps looking out of your window or from a café in the central square, and write down everything you can see. No matter how boring it seems or how detailed, just write it down. Spend at least an hour on this exercise.

Here are some areas to consider:  

  • Can you transform this into a photography version? 
  • Would you stay in the same place or get in close to the things you listed?
  • Would you choose to use your camera phone in order to be discreet or would you get your tripod out?
  • Would it be better in black and white or colour?
  • Would you include your list with the final images? You may choose to turn this into a photography project if it interests you.

I sat at the window of my own home although it would have been more interesting to sit at a cafe or any other place but as boring as it was; I got the chance to see things I did not notice before and I think this exercise needs to be as boring as possible in order to find interesting things.  Below are the list out of my window:

View Out Of My Home Window

George Perec a French novelist, filmmaker, documnetalist and essayist in his book An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1975) listed everything that is going around him no matter how boring it is.  He described what happens everyday and questions it.  He questions bricks, glass, tools, the way one spend their lives, basically anything that usually pass unnoticed not worrying about repetition.

Sitting listing what I see integrates ideas and inspirations, it made me see these everyday things in a new way.  I would certainly though go closer for some of the views such as the kids playing football since the view is a bit far away from where I am, however I might prefer using my camera phone or I might use my camera but from a bit further using a zoom lens.  People gathering at the mosque doing the rituals such as “wodooa” outside the mosque could be interesting as well as the people sitting outside beside one of the villas utilizing the free wifi it offers to the guest at their living room!

I prefer to take colored photos of some of the things I saw and black and white with others.  With the view of trees and birds I personally see a black and white series there while with the others mentioned above, colour would be nice utilizing the light from the sun.

Bibliography / References:

Perec, G.  An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris [online]. Available From: https://iitcoa3rdyr.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/perec_readings.pdf   [Accessed 4 July, 2017].




2 thoughts on “Exercise 5.2: (P.108): (A View From A Window)

  1. Holly Woodward says:

    This sort of exercise is fascinating, not only for the person undertaking it, but also for anyone who reads it. Each of us builds up a mental image based on your words, which might or might not have anything to do with what you are actually seeing. I did an exercise on this in a group earlier this year, where someone described a scene to another person (who had their eyes shut) and then the second person opened their eyes and reported how reality differed from what they had been imagining. There is something interesting to explore in the difference between written or spoken descriptions and the visual reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ghada says:

      That’s true Holly, I think there will always be a mismatch between spoken words and reality as well as spoken words and written ones especially if we eliminate the body language or tone of voice for example. However reading Perec he focused more on details and repetitions and listed everything in detail for hours till he exhausted the place and reader, some claim they went to the same place he sat at and they saw the exact same thing he listed and described after all these years.

      I would say it is my own failure not to be able to see everything he saw or understand. I think the experience one has with a certain place makes the difference to what is told and what is reality. When I describe a place I know, I describe it according to my own experience and influence to that place while you would imagine it differently from what I described. Your mind will recreate its own image, taste and smell depending how engrossed you are.

      Sorry for the long essay, maybe I should have put that in the reflection section “lol”. I remembered an exercise we did at College similar to what you mentioned but it was about gossips we spread out. The teacher told a student a gossip and asked her to pass it along to her fellow student who will then pass it to the one sitting beside her until they reach the last student. We were about 15 to 20 students. The last student then was asked to tell what she heard and we were surprised that the story she told was completely different from what the teacher told!


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