So every now and then I go off on a little rant about printing your work and the dangers of future proofing. Now I’m not wanting to open the whole digital / analogue debate for the millionth time, it’s been done to death, the industry is changing and we must change with it, what I’m talking about here is the history of it all.
My client work is pretty much always doomed to a short lifespan, such is the world of fashion, who really cares about it once the latest trend is over? Personal work however, to me this is my life in photographs. As we experience things in life we each have our own way of dealing with it and remembering it, some write a journal, others can live off the stories, me, I take photographs, I live life through a viewfinder. It’s just my way of remembering. However, what becomes of these “memories” in 10 or 20 years time?
I’ll leave it up to Christopher to put forward his thoughts – http://christopherwilockiphotography.tumblr.com/post/35083500099/i-am-done-with-photography
Now I’m certainly not “done” with photography, I in fact love photography. It’s just that like Chris I fear what we are going to leave behind (or not). My inspiration coming from my contemporaries such as Ryan Muirhead, Severin Koller, Luc Braquet. All these guys have a few things in common? Yes they all shoot film so yes there’s always going to be the Leica thing but apart from that they all revel in the process, they use their tools because they simply love using them. They get pleasure from not only making photographs but also the very means by which they do it. I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt that my Canon gear has inspired me, sure it makes the whole job easier but that isn’t really the point at all.
“For me the film vs digital argument is not about the ability of the mediums to produce good images. For me it’s about how shooting film makes me feel. My Contax, and especially my Leica are inspiring to hold and look through. They make me want to shoot, to be more creative, to contribute to what has already been done with these amazing instruments.” R.M.
Again, I’m not saying film is “better” or “worse”, it also isn’t about the nostalgia. It’s about creating photographs in the way you wish to create them and with a tool which actually compels you to do so.
So I guess what I’m saying is just go back over the thousands of photographs you all took last year and print a few off and stick them on your wall, or in a shoebox or something. Just keep some to look back on one day.
So I’ve been bombarding you all with a lot of photographs lately, I figured I’d take the weekend to put down some words for a change. After all, I know how you love a rant every now and then. Plus something has been welling up inside me of late, especially with all the new camera announcements. So if you’re ready to ride this one out with me, grab a seat, maybe a hot beverage and perhaps by the end I’ll have figured out what I’m trying to say.
Firstly for those not of a geeky camera leaning GAS is photo-nerd speak for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. This is the usual follow up of spending too much time online looking at photographs, seeing what camera was used to take said photographs and then heading over to eBay to try and find one cheap. One of the problems with being a photographer is that we all have an inner gadget geek which drives part of our brain. The artist part is happy with whatever creative tool it is given, often it is happiest with the most limiting of kit. The geek side however, that side wants new stuff, new (old) stuff, different stuff. It wants all this as it feels that somehow by having it magically the photographs the photographer creates will be better. Now I’m fairly sure most will agree that in the modern digital arena this problem has become amplified with all the manufacturers telling us about the super dooper new features and mega high iso capabilities etc etc. People get really hung up on this stuff and one quick glance over some of the nauseating internet forums will reveal just how strongly some folk feel about how important it all is. I guess it’s human nature to want to have better “stuff” than the others and to try and claim some higher standing by having said “stuff”. However photography has a great leveller of the playing field in it’s bag of tricks. The end product. I see many self proclaimed “pros” shooting with the latest and greatest camera gear producing very mundane and somewhat dead photographs. On the flip side I see many modest “hobbiests” shooting beautiful, heart wrenching work on cameras aimed at the entry level, or on cameras manufactured 30 years ago. So what does this tell me, does this mean we should shed ourselves of out megapixel beasts and go grab a point and shoot? no. Does it mean we should all go and shoot film just because this one guy on the internet said it was cool? no. Should we maybe just stop and think about what it is that new bit of kit we’re lusting after is going to grant us? maybe.
I feel one of the things we’ve lost in this digital age is time. Time to truly acquaint ourselves with our tools, to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of each piece of kit we own. The only way to get this is through spending time with our equipment, shoot with it, feel how it works, or if you like “become at one with your camera”. In the olden days (man I feel old typing that) we’d have one camera for years, the only thing which would make a huge difference would be the film you ran through it. Now you’re lucky if the fancy new DSLR you bought will last two years. Less if you spend time reading photo magazines and review sites. A lot of the photo industry is about trying to part you from your hard earned money, to be fair I’m part part of that crowd in that I’d like my clients to part with hard earned money in return for some beautiful photographs. However much of the industry would have you believe it’s more important to have the latest camera and lens than it is to truly understand how to create those beautiful photographs. I’ve seen many a person on photography workshops and training sessions not really know how to use their cameras and I don’t mean how to use the camera to take photographs I mean the basic stuff like change iso, format a CF card, that kind of stuff. You know read the manual stuff. I’ve seen the “Photography basics 101 : how to take great photographs” courses end up with people lining up to ask how to set the camera up. I’ve even worked with “pros” who seemingly lack those same skills much to my dismay. As Mr Canlas tweeted yesterday “if you accept money for shoots, you should know how to meter.” Pretty much sums it up
Know your gear.
Now I’m not claiming to be immune from said GAS, after all some may recall my acquisition of a Canon 85mm f1.2 last year. A lens which is rather highly regarded. Do I still own said lens? I do not. Why not? it spent far too much time sat on the shelf than it did in my bag. At that time last year I was all hung up on the gear I had and on what I wanted to be able to shoot the kind of photographs I thought I wanted to shoot. I was all about the geek rather than the artist. Looking back If I’d just concentrated on going out and shooting those photographs I’d have learnt a whole lot more than I did photographically. Sure I learnt that the 85L is a great lens (in optical and bulk terms), however it just wasn’t for me. Would I buy one now if I had the spare cash floating around? probably not, there are a number of other things I’d invest that cash into before another 85L.
So what is it that I’m really going on about?
Well I guess I’d be nice if people started to rebalance their inner battle between the nerd and the artist. Let’s all just step back from the latest press releases about magical new cameras and concentrate on actual photography. You can lust after cameras and lenses that’s perfectly fine, just don’t let that be your overriding pull to photography. If you’re not out there creating new work, new work that you are proud of, then who the hell cares how many megapixels you have. Or that the photograph you took of your cat last night in the kitchen without the lights on at iso 1000000 with your 12-1000mm f1.4 lens and at 30 frames per second has next to zero noise in it at 100%. Seriously unless you just got a commission to photograph really fast black cats in a coal mine under ambient lighting conditions it really isn’t that important.
So to re apply the Baz Lurhman line “Don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly”, don’t spend all your time reading photography magazines they will only make you poor. The reward from going out and taking a great photograph that you are proud of is much longer lasting than that momentary joy you get from buying a new camera.
Day 140 / 365
So I finally got some time to head out and give the Fuji x100 a real workout today, off I headed to nearby Harrogate. Lucky me headed straight into the rain, now I said the fuji needed a workout but i’m not quite ready to test it’s water repellency just yet. Spotted this shot and despite the voice in my head screaming at me not to shoot such a cliche fired off a quick frame before walking back to the car feeling a little dirty for my lack of creativity today. However in hindsight it fits perfectly with what has been on my mind for a week or so.
I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the craft of photography lately, partly due to Mr DuChemin elegantly putting into words many of my recent thoughts & feelings on modern photography. I hinted at this the other day when I mentioned briefly my feelings on flickr and it’s general tide of fluffy kittens & rainbows. One statement I’ve recently come to take to heart is “If you frame up a shot and feel you’ve seen it before, then don’t press that shutter”. We need to push the craft of photography forward and stop shooting what we think people want to see (ie. what we’ve seen already that has been received with praise).
I don’t have any problem with using others concepts and putting your vision onto them but straight out shooting to look like someone else isn’t going to get you (or anyone else) very far. Surely we are photographers because we want to share our personal vision of the world with others, much like writers and painters. We create something which expresses how WE see the world, not how we think others want us to see the world.
My best advice? Well if you do see someones shot and think “hey that’s cool, I’m going to shoot one of those.” then rather than just trying to replicate what they did, examine exactly what it is about the shot that you think is “cool”. Is it the light, the moment, the composition, examine your true feelings on the photograph rather than just trying to make a photograph that you hope someone else is going to say “Oh that’s cool”,”Great shot”, “Fav”. In fact better than that, unplug the computer and pick up a book of Cartier-Bresson, Avedon, O’Neill, Penn, Winograd, Adams, Evans photographs and spend an hour or so looking at them. Feel the power the physical photograph has that looking at a monitor seems to lack.
Sure I’m not saying every image we take has to be able to change the world with its power and emotion, I’m just saying it’s time we all took a moment to consider what it is we are really trying to say with our work.
I’ll leave you with a quote (it’s been awhile since one of these) –
I have often thought that if photography were difficult in the true sense of the term -meaning that the creation of a simple photograph would entail as much time and effort as the production of a good watercolor or etching – there would be a vast improvement in total output. The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image often leads to creative disaster. – Ansel Adams
Oh, I do like todays photograph by the way, It’s just I expect more of myself.