About Vernakular

Vernacular photography is “everyday photography.” It has a perspective that is identifiable, accessible, relatable, yet playful. This is my approach to my photography and how Vernakular (with a k) came to be. I look at things differently, something that seems mundane excites me. Vernakular represents my curiosity, imagination, point of view, and experiences. I aspire to provide a platform for the ordinary – found objects, industrial landscapes, and series photography. I am intrigued by the stories behind these subjects.

Since 2003, I have been using photography, travel, and the world around me as inspiration for functional design. In the last ten years, my emphasis has been on the well-received project, Sewers of the World, which documents the diversity and uniqueness of sewer covers I have encountered around the world. The series represents sewer covers from over 100 cities, 30 countries, and five continents (and counting!).

What fascinates me is how a sewer cover can define the city it represents, with its beauty, creativity, personality, and functionality. The image of a Detroit sewer cover was captured after a brief rainfall, the oil and water on the street combining to create a shimmery blue. The Miami Beach sewer cover was discovered with its glorious, albeit faded art deco motif. The Boston sewer cover proudly announces itself with its bold, confident lettering. The Chicago sewer's clean, formal design mimics a city steeped in architectural history. Then there are the sewer covers in Japan. The detail and aesthetics that go into some of their sewers astounds me. In Sodegaura, just outside Tokyo, as the colors of the sewers fade, they are restored and rejuvenated. Lastly, the Baltimore sewer says a lot about its inhabitants. In my shows around the U.S., Baltimore is the one that is often most requested. To some, it may be surprising, to me, it indicates civic pride.

After graduating with a degree in still photography from Ryerson University in Toronto, I began my quest to capture the uniqueness and diversity of sewer covers I encountered. I have amassed a collection of thousands of photographs of sewer covers from my travels around the world. I produce functional items, such as doormats, trivets, and coasters all featuring images of sewer covers around the world. I sell in boutiques, museum stores, pop ups, and arts and crafts shows around the country.

Raoul Calleja
April, 2022