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Picture Perfect Letters

December 10, 2011
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

It's not unusual to see beauty or art in the architectural details of buildings or in scenes of nature. Recognizing alphabet letters in either a building or a tree is a different story altogether, but that's exactly what Lisa Hall of Alpena does.

This enterprising photographer spends hours driving around the area, where she uses her discerning eye to take thousands of photographs of common, everyday objects that because of their shape, can double as a letter. Afterwards, she edits and prints her photos to compile a catalog of the alphabet's 26 letters. Using those photographed letters, she spells out people's names or words like "love" or "family" and frames them. The end result are unique signs that she sells via her newly established home-based business, U Name It.

"I picked U Name It because I was trying to figure out something that would help people to realize what I was doing," said Hall, who admitted that some people just think she takes photographs of odd things until she puts several photos together and explains her concept.

Article Photos

News Photos by Diane Speer
Lisa Hall of Alpena talks with a customer at her U Name It booth during last weekend’s Ella White Craft Bazaar. Hall takes photographs of elements in the area that look like letters of the alphabet, then uses them to create framed signs.

"Some people don't understand what they are seeing," Hall said. "They will see the individual picture and think, 'huh?' But when you explain to them that there are letters in the pictures, they get it. It's neat how people see things so differently."

Hall came up with the idea for her business when she decided to buy the same type of signs online as gifts, but became discouraged when she saw how expensive they were to purchase. That made her think that perhaps she could take photos and create the signs herself.

"I just started going out taking pictures and driving around," she said. "Then I became obsessed with it and couldn't stop taking pictures. It was fun and it just kept going."

Hall worked hard to find a source for the frames she uses so that she could keep the cost of the finished product low and affordable. Prices usually start around $35 and vary depending upon the number of letters used in a sign.

Recently, she participated in three local craft shows, including last week's Ella White Craft Bazaar, where shoppers apparently liked what they saw.

"The feedback has been really amazing," Hall said.

She can easily put in five or six hours at a clip driving around looking for the right objects to photograph.

"I just putz along the side of the road, looking at everything," Hall said. "Then I drive down the other side of the road or go into neighborhoods and look around. Once you start taking the pictures, there are so many different levels of looking at buildings and things."

Not all letters are easy for her to locate. Currently, she's having a challenging time finding shots that represent "f," "r," "h" and "n."

"Those are my hard ones to find right now. Usually on letters, I can have a dozen different options, but then I try to narrow it down. It is difficult for some people to go through so many choices," Hall said. "Then sometimes the first one I found will be replaced with a couple of other ones that I find and like better."

Sometimes the whole process takes old-fashioned stick-to-it-tiveness, like the time she decided to photograph a lamppost located by Staples. She went there three different times to snap photographs from a variety of different angles.

"I just knew there was a letter there somewhere to be found," she said. "And then one day I found a 'd' in the lamppost, which wasn't even the original letter I first saw in it."

Another time she spotted a few sprigs of leaves growing on a stem by the side of a road and wondered if she could get a letter out of them. She estimates taking two dozen photographs of just that one set of leaves until the wind blew just the right way and formed an "e" for her to shoot.

Hall admits that in order to escape her obsession of always looking for letters in everything she encounters, she occasionally must leave her camera at home. That way, she said, she isn't tempted to stop and take photos all the time.

On a recent trip to Grand Rapids, however, she visited several stores to see examples of the same kind of work done by other photographers.

"I had to peak to see what their letters looked like," she said. "I found that mine are really, really original pictures. And a lot of mine are clearer than the ones I've seen in stores in Grand Rapids."

Eventually, Hall hopes to have her signs available for sale online. For now, she will continue to travel around taking more and more photos.

"It's so much fun," she said. "It's a fun process."

Hall plans to participate in other area craft shows and can be reached at 464-0236.



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