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?

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

Welcome to the Moorcock

In my early twenties I used to regularly pass a place called the Moorcock Inn. It was on a quiet road between Waddington and Newton in the Ribble Valley, perfect for a summer evening drive out with friends in my freshly waxed car.

I haven’t been that way in some time, but in July this year I fell upon the place again, and was dismayed to find it in ruins. What a sad ending for this once lovely inn, which used to be a very popular venue in the Ribble Valley despite its slightly remote location.

As my pictures show, the Moorcock isn’t going to be serving food any time soon. Memories are all that’s left, fading fast among the piles of broken glass and detritus.

Gallery

The joy of printing

I’ve spent the last couple of days producing prints for a portfolio update after pulling together edits for a couple of projects I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve never really produced my own portfolio prints, preferring instead to use a lab. However, I have just invested in a good A3 printer, and have been hankering to have a go at my own.

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My portfolio book used to have archival polyester sleeves into which I just inserted an 11×14 print from the lab. Dead easy. For this update it hasn’t been quite as simple, as I wanted to go down the double-sided ‘prints straight in’ route, and unfortunately I couldn’t find any 11×14 double-sided paper on this side of the Atlantic!

So, I’ve had to buy double-sided A3 paper, print on both sides, cut it down to size using a rotary trimmer, crease the edge so the pages turn easily, and punch the holes individually to fit the proprietary screwpost binding mechanism.

It’s been time-consuming, but I’m delighted with the results. I can see fine details on the prints that I couldn’t see on the screen, and I’m convinced these prints are better quality than I would have got from a lab.

Very happy photographer!

The joy of printing

Finding your purpose in life

This thought kind of follows on from this one, where I question the reliability of asking yourself to think back to when you were at your happiest. While I still think it’s near impossible to answer this question – and indeed find your purpose in life – I do think there are some questions you can ask that will help you on your way.

This list of seven strange questions from Mark Manson is particularly interesting.

I especially like questions #2, #3, #4, #6, and #7…

  • What is true about you today that would make your eight year-old self cry?
  • What makes you forget to eat and poop?
  • How can you better embarrass yourself? (This one needs some explaining, so read the article by Mark).
  • If you had to leave the house all day every day, where would you go and what would you do?
  • If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

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Probably still not going to give you reliable answers – because your thoughts will always be coloured by recent experiences – but an interesting exercise in navel gazing nonetheless!

Finding your purpose in life