It’s a Giveaway!!

I have, recently been reading a book called “The Gift”, by Lewis Hyde.  It’s an old publication (one bought for 1p from Amazon, but the postage was £2!)…   It’s about gift giving, and the arts.  Hyde promotes the art of ‘gift giving’, and the responses that can come from that gift.

I’ve also been reading, co-incidentally, another book called “Single Exposures”, and the author of this book refers to the first, and promotes the idea of giving away a number of prints, to both friends, and strangers alike, and to see what happens.

Now, I appreciate that this seems to fly in the face of the commercial world, but as I’m no longer officially working, and retirement has set in rather comfortably, I’m thinking that I will give this a shot – and see what happens.

So, for the next three months, I’m going to give away 5 prints to the first five people that ask for them.  I’ll get them printed up for you, and posted out if necessary.

All you have to do, is have a look round my website www.dseddonphoto.co.uk, and pick your image.  If I don’t know you personally, you will have to send me your address, but you can use the contact page on the website to send it to me, and note the image you have picked.  Each image has a number which appears in the top right hand corner as you scroll over.  Just tell me the gallery name, and the image you want.

The print will be no larger than A4 – and sometimes smaller, depending on the individual picture.  The watermark will not be shown.

I’ll turn it around as soon as possible, and it will wing its way to you.

There is nothing else you need to do, and there is no requirement for you to reciprocate if you don’t want to.

I would encourage other photographers to maybe join in, and lets try to set in motion a flurry of ‘real’ prints to spread around.

I don’t think we hang enough of our own work on the walls, but there seems to be a tendency to hang other people’s……

I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll report back later as to how it’s going……  Fingers crossed.

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Has Photography been Trivialised?

I was reading an article the other day about the number of photographs that are taken each  year, and in addition the number of photographs with people in them, who don’t know that they are IN them.

A bit of research took me to the oldest known photograph with people in it.  It was taken in 1838 by Louis Daguerre, and it shows Boulevard du Temple, in Paris.

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The street is lined with lamps and trees, and in the middle of the frame is a tiny figure. A man getting his shoe shined, who likely had no idea his image was being captured at all. (In fact, Boulevard du Temple is and was a busy street. When Daguerre took the photo, there were carts and people streaming up and down the street and sidewalks, but only this one man shows up because the photograph had to be taken over the course of 10 minutes. Only the man standing still shows up after such a long exposure.)

A lot has changed since then – think of the numbers of photographs taken each day, and uploaded to Facebook, or shared with applications such as Snapchat. Facebook revealed in a white paper that its users have uploaded more than 250 billion photos, and are uploading 350 million new photos each day.  It’s a number that I just can’t get my head around.

Another way to think about it (and data here from another blog I read) – more photographs are uploaded every day, than existed in total 150 years ago – and that’s just the ones that are uploaded.  It doesn’t count all the ones stored on hard drives.

Images are becoming almost mundane – it’s all been done – and much like the UK debt, they can only increase with the passing of time, especially if you think of the numbers of mobile phones being used as cameras.

I do wonder, at what point will the number of images being taken, become so overwhelming that the medium of photography will become trivialised and border on meaningless.

Already it is getting harder and harder to find images that are unique, and photographically exciting.  The rise the in popularity of photography started to skyrocket around the year 2000 with the production of the ‘smart’ phone.  Photography is now moving forward so fast, that it’s likely to be tripping up over its own feet.

Has the magic disappeared?

I certainly think that some photographers have started to become lazy.  For example, take the photographing of UK wildlife – if you wanted photographs 20 years ago – you had to go out and look for it yourself.  You had to learn skills.  Tracking, hunting, understanding your subject.  Now, if you want a photo of, say, a red squirrel, you just look on line, and pay someone to set up a hide for you – supply the requisite nuts – and maybe even tell you what camera settings to use.

And of course it’s even easier with a digital camera – you can afford to make mistakes and use the wrong settings.  Just take a lot of images, and if it all goes wrong, pay again, and shoot again.   The comment “oh, it’s another red squirrel”, was not one  you would have heard even 10 years ago, but it is much more prevalent now.

For me, the act of being a photographer is much more than just recording my day to day life, and posting my lunch on Instagram.  It’s about the excercise of the process, rather than the result of the process.

A commitment to follow the path of art can be a thrilling one.  It’s not about the technology (though as I have said in the past, it can help), it’s about the making of the image, and I still find this to be the very best part.

I’ve also found over the last 18 months or so, that entering competitions has lost some of its flavour.  I see so many changes and developments in the different categories of the competitions, and just can’t keep up with all of them.  Not that I’m expected to I suppose.

On the other hand, I find the new technologies to be tremendously exciting – the advent of the mirrorless camera has provided me (and a good number of others) with a new found freedom.  They are lightweight, compact, and the images are massively superior to some of the older DSLR cameras out there – and when I say older, I don’t mean THAT much older either.  The ability to throw a small camera into a bag and walk out and shoot has been something I missed for a long time.

My first camera was a Sony Cybershot with 3.2 Million Pixels.  It used the (then fashionable) memory stick.  Easy to stick in my pocket – it got used a lot.  Then along came the bridge camera, and later my first DSLR  – the Canon 350D – still reasonably compact – but then the Canon 5D, and later still on to the Canon 1Series.  Each time they got bigger, heavier, and the lens followed suit.

The advent of mirrorless was only on the fringes of my perception for a long time.  Then suddenly Fuji, Sony, Olympus, and others,  produced a range of gear that, in the end I had to take notice of, and the purchase of the Fuji X-T2, and now X-T3, has encouraged (and allowed) me to shoot even more.

So, has photography been trivialised?  To some extent I would think so – but in the same breath, I think there is still room for the serious shooter, and I’m looking forward to browsing Instagram, Facebook, 500px and other places for my next batch of inspiration.

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A16 towards Tetford

 

It all takes time!

I think that photography and writing are similar in many ways, in that both need to draw the reader / viewer into the artwork.

A little while ago, I went to a gallery in Manchester to see the Vogue 100 exhibition.  It was very busy, with a lot of people moving around to see the exhibits (which were stunning by the way!)…  I watched the people looking at the photographs there, and in a moment of interest, timed roughly how long on average they were viewed for.  Mostly it was for no more than a few seconds – but for some it was minutes.  Seats were placed for those who wished to ponder, but were mostly a waste of time, as people stood in front of them.

It crossed my mind that each of those images had taken a long time to make – from conception to publication could have been weeks, and here we were now, giving them the most cursory of glances.

Sometime later, with this in mind – I went to see a small exhibition at Cleethorpes library, put on by a friend of mine as part of his degree project.  I had seen some individual images earlier, and hadn’t been very excited by them.  However, seeing them all together, as a collective body of work, tied together by a theme, was enough to make me realise that not all photographs can stand in isolation – they need the rest of the work around them – much like a good novel does.  If the opening chapter doesn’t grab  your attention, you are unlikely to read the rest of the book, or if you do, you do with some small bias.  His body of work, I found extra-ordinary.  Images of paths wandering through trees, with sometimes no way out.  His work, called “Shul” can be found HERE.

Like the writer, the photographer has to have something to say – and it must be compelling enough to keep the viewer engaged.  The measure of success is based on how well the photographer would have you believe in his own world.  Minor White is quoted as advising us “to photograph not only WHAT it is, but what ELSE it is”.

After I had completed my Associateship panel in Bath last month – the judges all left the room to have some discussion…. in that time, a few people turned around to offer congratulations.  However, the first question I was asked, was “How long did it take you to complete the panel?”.  My instant answer was “6  months”, but when I thought about it afterwards I realised that although ‘these’ images had taken 6 months – the actual concept had taken much, much longer.  I had been flirting with multiple exposures for a number of years, and it was only in this year that the project had come together in the way it did.

I feel sure that writers are similar – plots and sub plots must mature in their minds before pen is even put to paper, and once they start, further ideas, will flow, and changes will be made as output increases.

Going back though to the time people spend looking at photographs.  I belong to a tiny group of photographers, who will critique each others images, and spend time looking at them.  Recently, we developed a scheme where we ‘borrow’ each other’s images, so we can spend time at home with them, and I have found that some images ‘grow’ on you with time – rather like music can.

My Associateship panel of 15 images was looked at in detail for about 15 minutes by five people – and I suspect that’s the longest anyone has looked at them, apart from me, and my mentor(s).

Which brings me to the whole point of this blog post – which is about time, and about text and titles.

When I judge photographic competitions (which I love doing), not only do I look at the image, I have to rely on the title the author has given it.  In providing a title, the things photographed can take on an entirely new context.  They can encourage me to view the image in a different way.  This is especially true when the theme of the competition is a complex one.

I’d like to challenge photographers out there, to write a short piece about one of their images – explain why they took it, and what story they are trying to tell. Just a few lines.  I’m totally convinced that photography generally can be improved once people slow down, and think about what they are trying to say with their images.

I’ll start, and it would be nice if anyone commenting on this blog could do the same.Oz 1
Taken recently in Western Australia – where the locals think nothing of driving hundreds of miles to get to the supermarket.  I wanted to show the long straight roads of the country, with nothing there – no traffic.  I wanted the viewer to feel the sense of isolation and remoteness for which WA is known.  It’s about feeling, as much as it is about the view.

Thoughts, as always are welcome.

 

 

I’m waiting to be discovered….

I’m getting older.  I’m 61 – and fortunately in reasonably good health.  I think I’m a reasonable photographer, maybe a tad better than average, but I’ve certainly not been discovered.

I have spent my photographic life producing work in complete obscurity – well near complete anyway.  The people who have seen my work are mostly clients, then camera club folks, then the people that I can bore on a semi-regular basis.

Though this might not be ideal, I am at least, on a par with probably 99% of the photographers that I know, and that is a comfort.  There must be billions of people who own cameras, and even more billions of photographs are uploaded to the internet every day.  Goodness knows how many get uploaded just to Facebook, without thinking of Flickr, or 500px, or any of the other social media channels.  So I suppose I’m in good company.

I don’t suppose for one minute that I’m ever going to be famous.  I suspect that the photographers that I know now, who are well known, in my circles are not going to be internationally famous either.  So why do we continue? – well, I think it’s because we like to have an audience of sorts, even if it’s of our own compatriots.

Photography is expensive, it can be demanding, we push ourselves to make the best images we can, and sometimes we are rewarded with applause from our friends, or maybe a competition win or two, and this is where there is potential for it all to go wrong.  We win something – we achieve a qualification, therefore we are good, and so we should, maybe, be fighting off the adulation from our doors….  NOPE – that didn’t happen either.

Success in competition or accreditation is satisfying.  Success in the outside world is rare, and is for the few, but I’m not suicidal yet…..

Fame in the real world is not just about skill, craftsmanship and the ability to produce brilliant images (I see that every time I look at images on 500px), it’s also about chance, luck, and being in the right place at the right time.

Why for example is Ansel Adams (my hero by the way) so famous..?  Well I looked it up on Google – and here’s the theory.. He was born in 1902 in San Francisco, California. He rose to prominence as a photographer of the American West, particularly Yosemite National Park, using his work to promote conservation of wilderness areas – and there we might have it – Conservation of Wilderness areas.   He was there, producing images of the wilderness at the time conservation became a big issue in the 1970’s which is when he rose to prominence. His work fitted the situation exactly, and his hard work over previous decades was given credence because he lived and worked there, and because he had a huge catalogue of work already complete.

I’ve been to Yosemite, wondered at the majesty of Half Dome – decided to stand on the bridge that Ansel Adams stood on and get ‘that’ picture of the sunset.  Me with the 40 odd other people jostling for position, on what amounted to a small bridge.  No – you need to live your own creative life, and not try to live it through the eyes of a hero…

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We have no control over who likes our work and who doesn’t – we have more control over who sees our work, but we can’t make them buy it.  (It’s great when someone does though) – we cannot have any idea what will happen to our work in the future, and we have no idea if anything we have produced will influence future generations.

All we can say for certain is that our work will still be visible after we have gone, the internet will see to that, and I personally have no idea if my work will  influence anyone in years to come.  Enjoy it whilst you can…… you do not know what tomorrow may bring.

 

 

Trending Now

One of the greatest traps in photography I find is defined by current trends.  In some cases, this can be very useful, for example in team building, or sports, but when it follows the herd it can be very difficult.

For example – a few years ago, when I was a member of a camera club in the Manchester area – there was a swathe of photographs hit the circuit – they were basically what I called ‘big head’ shots.  It was usually a photo of a person, in say a victorian costume, maybe wearing a top hat – he would dominate the image, in the foreground, and in the background would cleverly be put, say a steam engine, or a scene from the Black Country Museum.  This was original, and creative, but then everyone started doing it – and after a while it became – oh just another ‘big head’ shot – lets move on…….

Since my attitute to photography has changed (and really that is in the last 18 months), so has my work.  Art making is not quite the same as photography as a hobby.  A hobby is, by definition a diversion, a pass-time.  Art making is more of a struggle and a passion.  Rewards do come, but usually at a price.  I am finding my photography now even more of an addiction than I did before, as I search to change and improve my photographic style without the restrictions imposed on me by photographic clubs and competitions.

Not that I’d never enter competitions again – I will – I enjoy the challenge, and the ability to see other people’s work.  In fact, this is one of the reasons that I love to judge at camera clubs around the county.  I see what others are doing – I see the trends, and the ideas flow – well they do sometimes………

Even my relationship with my camera has changed.  From the Canon 1DX, and a full range of red band, beige, lens – I have moved almost entirely to the Fuji System.  I no longer think about ‘gear’ as the be all and end all of photography (although I admit better gear does help – but it’s not the camera that takes the picture, it’s the photographer)….  The camera is a tool – the oven doesn’t make good cakes, as the camera doesn’t take great pictures.

I’m watching the rush – the rush to take the next picture, then get it online for the ‘thumbs up’, ‘thumbs down’ vote from the Facebook clans, who are constantly chasing after the latest ‘trend’.

When was the last time you spent time on your own, with a camera?  I’ve concluded that I don’t do quite as well when I’m out with friends. I am interested then in what they are doing, the conversation and the pleasure of being with them.  I’m more interested in this, than in making a meaningful photograph.  So, I need to slow down even more and aim for a more creative frame of mind, and maybe spend a bit more time on my own.

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To Like or Not to Like, that is the question..

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Every now and again someone will ask me “where did you take that picture?”  It’s usually easy for me to tell them,  as I can remember most locations.  However, sometimes I’m asked “WHY did you take that picture?”

The image above generated this second question.  It was taken on the beach, close to West Kirby, and the chap had been wind surfing.  The dog had been bounding around on the beach, and this was the greeting the owner got when he sat down.  I was just taken by the moment shared between man and dog.

What’s interesting, is that the next person to look at this shot might say that it doesn’t do anything for them.  They may not like the composition, or the colours, or the expression….

This is the point – there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way – it’s all to do with how the viewer has been educated by books, art, and photography.  It’s about how they have been ‘judged’ in the past on their own work.  It is also to do with how much influence an individual has had in their photographic journey.

If you are constantly told that the photographic rules have to be followed, and that deviation means it’s wrong – then it’s possible that the photographer will not be as creative.

You need to know the basic rules, yes, but you also need to be aware that it is OK to break them when YOU want to.

Your own views will be constantly changing, provided you are open to change. And the truth of the matter is that you have only one person to please that really matters……. YOURSELF.

 

Never Go Back !

I was on my way to a job a couple of years ago – fairly locally.  I had a deadline to be with the client to photograph a presentation, and didn’t really have time to stop on the way.

Driving past, I saw this boat – moored up, and I thought, that’s great – I’ll go back an shoot it on the way home, or maybe another day.

The voices in my head, that I’ve talked about before, and said you should listen to – shouted at me “do it now”.  I did, I stopped the car, got out, and took this one image.

When I was finished – I drove home the same way, back to see the boat again.  There was no boat any more.  It had gone.  No longer any photo for me to take.

So, I reiterate….. “Never Go Back”… shoot it now.  When and if you do go back it won’t be the same.  It can never be exactly the same.  The weather will change, the light will change.  The thing you want to shoot may not be there any  more.  It might be better, or worse, but never the same.

I always tell people to keep going back to the same location – over and over – to see it in different lights, moods, and seasons.  You will have a different attitude, and a different mood.  You will try different viewpoints.

Always though, shoot first, and ask questions later……

Enjoy your photography…..