Welcome to 2022….

I can’t quite believe that it’s 2022 – the year in which I will be officially of a ‘certain age’.  Definitely NOT old, not yet.

I also want to express my thanks to everyone who has supported this blog in the past year or so. Your comments, on here, and on Facebook have given me the enthusiasm to keep writing. Thank you.

The last few days have been those odd ones that happen between Christmas and New Year – you know, the time, when you actually have had no idea what day of the week it is.  We’re still eating ‘Christmas’ food, and my other half is busy making the last mince pies of the season.  The days are dark – and short, and for about a week, there has been virtually no sunshine, just looming clouds of grey.

Suddenly over the last week, the sun came out a bit, the sky (today) is blue and life seems somewhat ‘brighter’ again. (it’s bitter cold out today but lovely).

Over the dull days, I’ve been reading photography books.  Something every aspiring photographer should do.  Not just pretty picture ones either (though there’s everything good to be said about those).

Towards the end of last year, I watched a few talks on YouTube, one of which talked about a photographer I’d never heard of  – an American, Harry Callahan.  The talk itself cost me a fair amount of money, (not the talk), as I searched online for a book about him and his images, creatively called ‘Harry Callahan’.  I managed to get hold of a second hand copy, which, when it arrived looked like it had never been opened.  

Callahan had his first one person exhibition in November 1947 in Chicago. He asserted that ‘creativity can only be measured by the value of an individual’s whole photographic life from beginning to end’.  He did not set out to create photographic masterpieces, nor did he think his later works were better than the earlier ones. He decided, almost from the start, that his photographs would be a record of his life, so each image was just a piece in his growth as an image maker.  His ‘body of work’ was a continuous piece of his life.  Callahan wanted to make images that would grow and change with him, and also preserve photographic integrity and unity.

Interestingly, when Callahan joined a camera club (The Chrysler Camera Club), he said that he learned from the members that photography was important and ‘very serious’.  He was only a member for three years, and his membership defined exactly what he did NOT want to do with his photography.  Later, in his membership of the Detroit photo guild, he found members made highly manipulated, and ‘pretty’ pictures, but discussed work ideas that had been popular over 40 years earlier.

This was in complete contrast to his ideas, which were innovative and carefree.  He went on to say that camera club photography was laboured, analytical and rule bound.  In their quest to create important work they had lost the amateurs eye and joy of discovery.  Callahan thought the guild was ‘silly’ – and created nothing more than an enormous ‘block’ to his work. 

He went on to say that with more experience, you can photograph more freely, and you will go back and forth with your experimentation – and you will repeat the same things, only better.

Harry Callahan 1912 – 1994

I think…… I want to express my life, and that’s also true in my old age. All your whole life is different.  So far I still look forward to going out and photographing” (Callahan 1994)

Find some of Callahan’s images by clicking the link below

https://www.lensculture.com/articles/harry-callahan-harry-callahan-the-photographer-at-work#slideshow

It’s Pixellated !!!

In my college days – in Stockport, working at photography, early on, a question was asked by our tutor – “why are you obsessed with taking pictures?”

We all had to think…… ‘Obsessed’ seemed a bit strong.

If I don’t take pictures for any length of time, I start to feel out of sorts, a bit ‘antsy’, and restless – My other half has no thoughts whatsoever about taking photographs. He has a camera, yes, but hardly ever uses it.  He’s quite normal, but doesn’t have the same drive that I do to make an image – in fact he has none at all…..

Yet, all of us who are photographers, who are driven and motivated, and have sacrificed money and time, and effort, and space in our homes for equipment and computers – maybe we are the ones who are just a bit crazy….. a bit ‘obsessed’.

But why do we spend so much time, and expend so much energy in making photographs?

Well, for me anyway, I feel almost compelled to share with other people the way that I see the world.  I operate under the illusion (or maybe delusion) that other people might be just a bit interested in the way I see things, or imagine things.

It’s egotistical isn’t it, that photographers think that others will be interested in seeing how we see – and thinking that the way we see, is different to everyone else.  

I look at work produced by other photographers, so that I can produce something that is different, so that they can look at my work and maybe produce something that is different – ad infinitum.

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Which brings me nicely on to what other people hang on their walls.  

In the good old days, when we were able to visit other people’s homes – remember those halcyon days – must be – well, over 12 weeks ago (ish) now……  I was always interested in what was hanging there.  

I was in an office a while ago, and there was a picture on the wall of Scotland – Skye in fact, and what caught my eye, was that it was taken from a place I had been, and stood, and taken my own photo. 

I mentioned later that I’d admired the picture, and was told that it had been taken by a friend of his, when they were on holiday together.  He told me all about the trip, how much he’d enjoyed it, how he intended to go back as soon as it was possible to do so.  

The way he described it – I could tell that the photograph meant an awful lot to him, and how much he enjoyed having it hanging there.

Being a bit of a picture person, I took another, better, closer, look – as a photographer would. 

It was pixellated – and obviously an enlargement of a much smaller image, and the colours were a bit ‘off’.  It had looked OK from 10 or 12 feet away, but once I got closer, I saw the flaws.  I started to see it, not as a memory of a place visited, but as a flawed piece of work, yet for him, it was a beautiful picture that evoked a wonderful memory, thus showing the difference between how just two people can view an image.  Double that, triple it, and then think of how many people look at your work, and think about how they view it.

It’s not all going to be the same way…. and sometimes we are lucky if ‘anyone’ likes what we are doing…  good to experiment though isn’t it?

Have fun, stay alert! as the saying now goes…..

 

To Take or Not to Take? That is the Question……

To take or not to take a photograph can be a moral question, as well as an ethical one.  Should we take it, or do we just ‘want’ to take it because it’s ‘there’.

I think the majority of us would not take a picture of a person, if they specifically asked us not to.  But can we over-ride this?

Whilst I’ve been creatively, non-creative, I’ve been reading a lot of books (I suspect the purchase of books of all sorts of genres, only comes second to what I spend on photography generally)… and one of the books I was looking at was “Another America: A Testimonial to the Amish, by Robert Weingarten – look him up – you can see some images online.  In fact here’s a link to some audio, and a video.  Three minutes if you can spare it….

https://www.eastman.org/another-america-testimonial-amish-robert-weingarten

He spent four years quietly photographing a group of people who most definitely did NOT want to be photographed – on his own admission, with a long lens.

Was this a genuine desire on his part to share this ‘unknown’ America – or was it a personal need to record something that maybe should have been left private?

Does the fact that the Amish live in ‘plain view’ give people the right to photograph them, or are they nothing more than fair game.

I relate this to a series of images taken by a photographer of homeless people on the street – and wonder if the same thing applies.  Some of the folk here could not object to the images being taken, because they didn’t know it had happened – is this right?  Especially when the photographer stands to make a profit out of the sales, or enters them into national / international competitions – with no formal release or agreement – and I’m not talking about traditional street photography here – as that’s a whole other can of worms…

One photographer justified the taking of homeless people pictures, by purchasing for the person, a coffee, or a meal – which is very laudable – but in the long run, is it ethical to swap a permanent image for a transient dinner?

Does the fact that these people are different from so called ‘normal’ society make the images act as a help for us to understand them, or could they be called (sometimes) nothing more than sneaky?

Weingarten’s images are all monochrome, and are quiet, peaceful scenes, and he says he treated the Amish with respect, though given that he met with some resistance, I’m not sure this was always the case.

Most Amish today will not pose for a photograph. Considering it a violation of the Second Commandment, which prohibits the making of “graven images,” the Amish believe any physical representation of themselves (whether a photograph, a painting, or film) promotes individualism and vanity, taking away from the values of community and humility by which they govern their lives. Occasionally, Amish people did have their photos taken, as you can see with the couple in this image who likely went to a studio for their portrait in 1875. But by the time photography became popular in America in the mid-19th century and photographers and researchers armed with cameras began appearing in Amish communities, most Amish objected to appearing in or posing for photographs entirely.

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Do we have the right to photograph anyone, and everyone without their permission – and sometimes, do we have the right to publish those images, even if they have said no?

“I walk & I look, when I find something that interests me, I take a picture. It’s really that simple.”

The above quote is from an Australian Photographer – Steve Coleman – he lives in Sydney, shoots film, and his images are different.  He makes photography sound simple again – and so it should be.

Let’s all go out and shoot something that interests us…. and not something that might be interesting to someone else.

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I’m not a street photographer, but I have the greatest of respect for those who can do it well.  I have a friend locally who is a wonderful street shooter.  I’ve been out with him a few times, and stood next to him as he worked his magic.  I could see the results afterwards, but for the life of me, at the time, could not see what he was waiting for.  He knows exactly what he’s looking for, and has the imagination, and creativity to make those images come to life.

The image above was taken when I was on holiday in Amsterdam.  The weather was terrible, and I just took a set of images in Dam Square because I found this chap (who was feeding the pigeons) interesting.    It’s not often that I let myself go, and just shoot for the sake of it – and it’s a picture that’s been sat on my hard drive for a couple of years.  It’s only recently that I’ve come back to this set of images, and actually processed them up.

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So, next time you’re at a loss for something to do, then have a look through your archive. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can find.  Technology moves on, and the shots you took years ago, can now be reprocessed into something acceptable.

I sat only this morning, talking to another photographer about images that languish on hard drives – he co-incidentally – was doing the same thing as me, and going through archived images looking for inspiration.  We agreed that images previously thought to be lost, can be revivied.

Don’t forget that photography has to be fun – it has to keep you interested, and for you to be interested, you have to take photographs of things that interest you.

Thank you Mr Steve Coleman for reminding me of this simple fact.