Twenty-five years ago, Chuck Schmidt was a guy from Montana with a degree in anthropology. His future wife, Katie McNamara, a university student and avid photographer, had a darkroom in her house, where she taught him the basics of film photography and printing.

By the time the couple moved to Portland in 2000, their skills had improved. Among other projects, in 2007 he had started photographing homes for realtors, architects and designers. “A lot of the houses I photographed, especially on the east side, were like time capsules from the 1960s and 1970s,” he says. He found himself drawn to some often overlooked features: switches and outlet wall plates.

“I’ve always loved Americana and beauty in the mundane, so I started taking pictures of the switch plates,” Schmidt says. While most homes have the common white or tan plastic rectangle, he estimates he’s pulled up to a hundred unique plaques over the years. “I just thought it was those funny, sometimes garish little personal details that told me more about the house (or room) than the rest of the decor.”

While running their business, Spin Photography, Schmidt and his his wife intends to branch out and obtain her own real estate licenses. But he’ll always keep a close eye on notable on-off switches: “If I see a cool switch, if I have the time and a camera, I’ll take it.” ”