Don’t look too hard

I have been pretty quiet on my blog, Twitter and Instagram for the last year. The main reason is I’ve been focusing on trying to start a new business in a field that has nothing to do with blogging or photography.

One of the things I’ve tried to do on a weekly basis is reflect on the past week. It’s a little activity I indulge in every Sunday night. Sometimes it’s a positive experience that helps me recognise how much progress I’ve made, other times it’s a negative experience when I consider the ongoing frustrations and setbacks that are part of any business startup.

The quote on the graffiti wall above spoke to me when I discovered it down a back street in Shoreditch, London. I snapped it on my iPhone, hoping it would trigger some thoughts.

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Don’t look too hard

Why do photographers take pictures?

I attended an interesting talk last night that asked a couple of questions I’ve never really considered before in terms of my own practice as a photographer.

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As a photographer, do you enjoy the thrill of the chase involved in finding a good picture or do you enjoy the final image more?

For me, the final image is everything. While I do enjoy wandering around and taking pictures, it can be quite painful and frustrating at times. Looking at the final image either on screen or in print is what makes it all worthwhile.

Do you take pictures with a view to recording what is happening now, always with an eye on how your pictures will be viewed several years in the future, or do you take pictures simply for the sake of taking them at that moment?

I definitely take pictures with an eye on how they will be viewed in the future. I used to be very particular about excluding things like logos and cars and street fashions, simply because the currency of the subject matter makes it too familiar to be remarkable. It was a while before I realised that in twenty years time images of these subjects will in fact be very interesting.

I’m curious to hear how others answer these questions!

Why do photographers take pictures?

Liverpool’s Boss! – first showing

The first showing of my Liverpool’s Boss! project starts today in Liverpool. It’s a small exhibition of only part of the ongoing project, but I’m delighted that it is taking place for the first time in the Baltic Triangle, where many of the images were made.

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The Baltic Triangle is home to Liverpool’s thriving Creative & Digital (C&D) community, and an area that only a short time ago was little more than a large stretch of imposing red brick warehouses, largely disused and derelict.

If you’re able to visit, please drop by Coffee & Fandisha, 5 Brick Street, Liverpool, L1 0BL. Their website is www.coffeefandisha.com. The exhibition will be there for the next three months until December.

Liverpool’s Boss! – first showing

Liverpool’s Boss! Photozine

At last I’ve started working on my first ever photozine. Putting together a little zine is a project that I’ve wanted to do for years, but I’ve never quite got around to it until now.

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In the zine are six images and the artist’s statement from my Liverpool’s Boss! project, an ongoing project about the regeneration of Liverpool.

Coming soon, to a coffee shop near you! (That’s if you’re in Liverpool.)

Liverpool’s Boss! Photozine

The difference between photojournalism, documentary, editorial, and commercial photography

I used to struggle with the difference between these three genres of photography, which on the surface all seem broadly the same. While it’s fair to say they are closely related, there are some subtle differences between them.

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An example of a directed portrait that could be classed as documentary photography.

Photojournalism

First, photojournalism, which is primarily about recording an event, and telling a viewer what happened via a series of pictures. Typically found in newspapers and magazines, photojournalism is highly objective, and while some images can be very beautiful, there is little scope for direction or altering lighting conditions.

Documentary photography

Documentary photography is very close to photojournalism in that it is about recording an event or telling a viewer about something through a series of pictures. However, documentary photography needn’t be as objective as photojournalism, and the documentary photographer has more freedom to direct subjects, change the scene, modify the light, etc.

Editorial photography

Editorial photography is about shooting for newspapers or magazines, but is not photojournalism. Typically an editorial photographer will be producing portraits, or documenting a workplace or an event of some kind for a feature in a magazine. The photographer does not need to be objective like a photojournalist, but needs to meet the brief, which is often to produce polished images that border on being commercial.

Commercial photography

That brings me nicely onto the subject of commercial photography, a genre that is easily summed up as being one that serves commercial clients. A commercial photographer might do corporate portraits, products, or a documentary about new offices or a corporate rebranding.

There are some overlaps where documentary photography can be classed as commercial or editorial, etc. However, the above explanations should help when trying to broadly distinguish between photojournalism, documentary, editorial, and commercial photography.

I class myself as a documentary photographer because I regularly change things around, direct portraits, modify the light, and am happy to work on editorial or commercial assignments.

The difference between photojournalism, documentary, editorial, and commercial photography

Two views of Stocks Reservoir

Here are two pictures I made of Stocks Reservoir.  I’m not really a landscape photographer, but these are interesting because they are both of the same scene, captured from The Causeway in Gisburn Forest, but they were taken twenty-two years apart.

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The weather conditions are obviously different, as is the water level!

The first photograph was made on black and white film in 1994. Back then I was still living with my parents. The second photo I captured with my DSLR a couple of weeks ago. Now I’m married, and my wife was with me.

Another big difference I remember is how back in 1994 I had to hold my camera up over my head in order to get that first picture. I took it blind without knowing what the view was like, or what I would get. This time around I could see over the wall, but the strange thing is, I was already fully grown in 1994, so it’s not as if I got taller. I can’t really explain what happened there.

Also worthy of note is the fact that for some reason I didn’t get around to developing that black and white film until c. 2009, so I waited well over a decade to see the result of that over-the-wall shot, even though I never forgot the day I took it.

Two views of Stocks Reservoir

Photographic dreams

When I’ve been doing quite a lot of intense photography, I find I suffer from strange photographic dreams. There are far worse dreams I could have, but these photographic dreams are particularly frustrating because it’s in the dreams that I seem to be making my best pictures!

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There isn’t really a beginning or end to the dream, I just suddenly become aware that I am taking pictures. There’s always a wonderful supply of subjects right on hand without having to wander around for hours. It feels like I’ve walked into ‘photo land’ where every street is amazing and filled with great-looking people who want to be photographed. I’m snapping away and saying all the right things and the people are really responsive and the backdrops are amazing and I know the pictures I’m getting are fantastic.

I’m fully aware all this is a dream, and I keep telling myself to remember this stuff and put it into practice, try to remember the framing, the angles, the expressions, etc. However, when I wake up it’s all gone. All that remains is the memory that I had a dream in which I was very energised, and taking amazing photographs, one after the other.

Apparently William Eggleston has similar dreams, so I know I’m not alone:

Often…I have these.. I call them ‘photographic dreams.’ They’re just one beautiful picture after another – which don’t exist. A short time later I don’t remember them. I just remember being very happy during the dream… Always in color.

I wonder how many other photographers experience these.

Photographic dreams