It was lovely to find a review of my ‘Odd Things’ talk on the Photocraft Website earlier today….. Wish I’d seen it sooner.
Have a look…….
Thank you Photocraft for your kind words……
It was lovely to find a review of my ‘Odd Things’ talk on the Photocraft Website earlier today….. Wish I’d seen it sooner.
Have a look…….
Thank you Photocraft for your kind words……
As I sit in my little office – listening to some soothing jazz, I’m also looking at some of the art work hanging on the walls.
Here, in this little room, it’s all my own work crammed onto the walls, but elsewhere in the house, I have images belonging to other photographers – it’s either something that’s been gifted to me, or something I’ve bought.
Which got me thinking….. why don’t we hang more of our own work on walls at home in areas where visitors can see it?
Some time ago, a friend of mine got for me some simple black frames, with no backboard and no glass. I’ve used them over and over. It means that I can mount up an image, seal it into the frame – hang it on the wall – and then, when I’m tired of it, I can swap it out for something else.
Some images seem to last much longer than others – in other words, they seem to have a long shelf life.
I’ve noticed that photographs by other people have hung in the same place for years – and I still stop and look at them as I pass. Not every day granted, but often enough that I know I still like them. Similarly with paintings – I have a small collection of original oils which I have never ‘gone off’…… so why do I change my own photographs so frequently?
Well, partly I think it’s to do with me being my own worse critic – I see the faults that maybe others may ignore….
I used to do a lot of home decorating – wallpapering and what not…. When people came to visit – they’d say nice things about it, and it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve said “well if you look up there in the top right hand corner – yes up there, in the shadow – you have to look carefully, the pattern doesn’t match……. Sound familiar? I’ve been in houses where the host/hostess has done exactly the same thing……
Why do we do it? And the answer is…. Sadly, I have no idea…….. but often self critique is not harmful – and most times it’s actually beneficial, allowing us to learn from our own mistakes.
Which brings me to the next thought……
A couple of years ago now – after having read a book called ‘The Gift’ I offered a number of prints for free to the first people who asked for them. I’d said they could choose from anything on my website, and I’d get it printed to no larger than A4 and post it out. I did this for four months, and each time the offer went out, the number of people asking for prints exceeded the limit I’d set myself.
It was fascinating to me to see who was asking for them – and mostly it was people that I knew…. I asked one lady why she’d never asked me before for a print of something, and she said that she felt too embarrassed to even ask….
It was a great exercise to do though, and I loved being able to send something out in the post that I knew was going to be appreciated. A couple of folks even sent me pictures of the print framed and hung on the wall…..
It’s interesting though to think that the images I make, that I like the best, are not the ones I’d give away unless they were specifically asked for. This of course might be just because I like and enjoy making ‘odd things’, or experimenting with my photography.
I’d love to use my images as gifts, but I’m not certain who it would gratify more, me or the recipient. I suppose it’s one of those things I shouldn’t worry about……….
After all, Vivian Maier never displayed her photos, instead placing all of her energies in to taking them.
In the end you have to love what you do, or give up and go home……..
Following on from my last post – I’m a bit excited.
Regular readers will remember that at the start of 2019 I started a journey down the Meridian Line from Yorkshire (Sand Le Mere) to the bottom of the county of Lincolnshire.
I ended with a trip to Greenwich, with some good friends.
The photographs themselves took 12 months to take and edit; and then another 7 months to organise them and write the text.
I self published using Blurb books, and have made both a hardback, and a soft-back.
I am really pleased with the end result – and in fact the statue on the front cover of the book (John Harrison of Longitude fame) was only installed at Barrow On Humber in March of this year. It was one of the images I had to wait to get before I could finish the book.
So, it’s done – and what next?
Well, Covid has put a stop to a lot of travel, but I am starting to get out and about a bit more – with other photographers too – though we go out in separate cars.
I’ve got a couple of ideas for projects going forward – which I’ll talk about when it’s more formalised in my head.
I’ve also got lots of people to thank who helped me get this book done – the naggers, the drivers, the pushers. The folk who have stood behind me when I got despondent and said “It’ll be OK”.
So – thank you to my other half for letting me travel at all hours, leaving him to dog-sit. Thank you to all the members of Lincolnshire Image Makers who encouraged me to keep going.
And to Mike Bennett, Keith Balcombe and George Lill for coming out with me – keeping me on the straight and narrow, and generally shoving me in the right direction.
In one of the talks that I give I discuss in a bit of detail my thoughts on how, as photographers, we can be trained to not be individual. We all need to know the rules and then know when to break them. For example the rule of thirds, and the exposure triangle.
So, when you do produce something, you would really like people to like it, but that’s not always going to happen, and then you have to grow a thick skin – because if you don’t, you are going to get upset, and, maybe, go on to produce work that hits the middle ground, where perhaps there will be nothing new or exciting. It’s safe, but boring. If we continue to produce work that everybody agrees with, then it won’t be as creative or imaginative as it could be.
I do think that photographers should produce exactly what they want to in their art work, and then they will know that what they have made is truly theirs. The world will just accept it, or it won’t.
I’ve said this before, but when I was working for clients, I had to produce work that was exactly what they wanted, and how they wanted it, in the time scale that they wanted. Since retirement, I’ve been able to contradict all those things, and I produce what I want, how I want, when I want.
If people don’t like what I (or you) do, then it has to be OK, because it’s really not necessary that they do. The artists responsibility here is to keep producing work that suits them and which allows them the freedom to breathe.
Image making should not be about winning a popularity contest, but rather it should be about being a personal creation.
Photographers love photography, which means we love the production of images, which in turn means we love art itself – and if we don’t love art, then we should. We should pursue the study of painting, sculpture, needlework and every other kind of art. Looking outwards from our specific hobby can only increase our awareness of light, shape and form.
We all have a variety of music that we love, films, and paintings, so why should photography be any different. Look for the ‘different’ and enjoy…..
We are still somewhat in lockdown – and it’s a good time to experiment with new ideas, and even genres.
As an aside, I did get the portable bird hide out again – sadly at the end of the lovely weather – and for the last few days it’s blown a gale, and poured down with rain. The benefit was that the wet earth brought out the ‘bugs’ for the starlings, and I got natural food rather than the dried mealworm I normally see them with.
So, as we work our way out of lockdown – do take care, enjoy your image-making, and stay safe……
We are in lockdown…….
I’ve not done a blog post this month since March 1st – and this is mostly due to the fact that the pandemic that started in China in December and which has overtaken most of the world sent me into a state of panic, that is only now starting to abate – as I realise that there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, only weather the storm as best I can.
The media hasn’t helped – with a constant bombardment of bad news, and 24 hour coverage.
So, what to do ? Restrict the amount of news coverage, release myself from the bombardment of social media, and listen to a lot more music – classical piano, is what’s playing in the background even as I type. I’m also trying to hone my photoshop skills some more. I’ve books, and magazines that I bought ages ago with the intention of working through some things, but never got around to. Well, now I have no excuse…..
Back to the music, and I’ve just listened to a piece that has been beautifully played. I’ve rewound it, and sat with my eyes shut, and just absorbed the flow – this has put me in mind of how we can relearn to look at photographs.
We can have them in the background, and see them, but not ‘notice’ them, or we can absorb them – much like we can a piece of music.
I used to play in an orchestra, (I played clarinet), and sitting ‘inside’ the music was magical. To hear the different sections rehearse individually was fascinating – sometimes it didn’t sound like the final piece at all, but the conductor bringing it all together made the final sound. The study of the score showed how it all worked.
I find that photography is very much like this – we produce the first image, and then in conjunction with software, we hone it to a final version – which other folks can then either quickly look at, or hopefully, absorb.
There are photographs in my home that hang on the walls that I will enjoy looking at – and will spend time with, and there are others that are there for decoration only. Seeing some images is not the same as spending time really looking at them.
Minor White said that you should spend at least 30 minutes looking at a photograph – not saying anything, just looking and absorbing – and that’s the same with a piece of music. Having it running in the background is not the same as really listening to it. Minor died in 1976, leaving many images for us to absorb. Mostly black and white closeups, arranged in sequence so the viewer had to look carefully, and slowly. Go look at his work, the lighting is beautiful, and a lot of the images are very simple, but need to be looked at carefully.
Especially good are the images of his friend Tom Murphy, taken in 1948 – beautifully lit, Tom is muscular and naked – and though White struggled throughout his life with his homosexuality, he was able to still to produce images like these.
In these strange times of lockdown, maybe we should take more time to really look at our photography, and really listen to the music. Listen to the sounds of nature too, and allow ourselves the unaccustomed luxury of being able to ‘look’.
So, what’s next – and what do the next weeks have on offer for the photographer? Restrictions yes, but maybe opportunities too.
I might just break out the macro lens I bought and hardly used….. and get to grips with photoshop !
Then again, there’s always the music………
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….
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.
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’ve been reading a lot of comments on social media recently about judges generally. What they say, what they do – what they ‘might’ be thinking…
It got ‘me’ thinking.. what can we do to keep camera club members happy – and after much debate, inward thinking, and maybe 5 seconds later – the answer came – and it’s ‘nothing’….. there is nothing we can do. Whatever a judge does or says, it’s going to upset / offend someone. Even if it’s just the person who didn’t win that night.
I’ve written before about emotional ties to photographs – YOU, the photographer know exactly what went into the shot – you know what you did, what your thoughts were – you know the story behind it. The judge doesn’t know any of that.. they come at it cold from the freezing wastes of wherever to see an image on which they have to pass some comments.
The comments they DO pass are usually the technical ones, about white balance, blown out areas, composition etc…. and the rest can be more personal ones, like how the image actually resonates with them.
I’ve been known to make some assumptions about how a picture was made, but usually qualify it with something like ‘but I don’t know for sure, this is only my idea’ – to try and get myself out of the hole I’m probably digging myself into.
However, we also judge emotionally – though I read somewhere today that judges apparently shouldn’t do that. It’s hard not to….. I’m pretty sure that if a picture came up of a hunter smiling over a dead giraffe – I’d find it really hard not to say something about how I didn’t approve of wildlife hunting…. and I’m pretty sure a lot of you would too.
So, why would that remark be OK (maybe) and not others about creating photographs.
The judge is a human being – with human ideologies, and personal feelings. I’m pretty sure these will come out in the course of talking about photographs whether they mean to or not.
A camera club competition is not the end of the world – it’s supposed to be a hobby for most of us – not life and death, and your career certainly isn’t going to fail or collapse because one judge somewhere didn’t like your image, or incorrectly interpreted it.
There is normally no-one out there at a club anxiously waiting to reward your genius, because photography is art for which most of the general public have no interest, apart from maybe likes and loves on social media. Which in my mind and observations has become more of an anti social media.
The photographs we make are mostly looked at by only a select few. A small group create, promote, exhibit and may decide the success of an image, but social media opens it up to the world. Once you exhibit your images, either here or in a camera club, you are, by default, opening it up to criticism.
Whether you like the critique or not, is up to you – but in the end it’s only the analysis of one person, on one night – and on the next outing, it might be loved…..
In spite of my ill-concealed conceit about such things (and the list grows longer the older I get) – the end result is that I reach a rather languid acceptance rather than a passionate objection.
Keep taking your photographs, stick them into competitions but please don’t judge bash – if if you feel you must – then get up there yourself and do it….. You’ll find it’s harder than you think.
A photography workshop is something that everyone should attend at least once – and more than once is better if you can afford it. It is, after all, a place where every attendee is interested in photography, and this is great for discussion, practice and experience.
The knowledge you can gather from a good workshop can be invaluable.
I’ve been fortunate to hear some wonderful speakers, who frankly deserved more exposure than they were getting, and conversely, I’ve sat through some awful presentations by accomplished photographers.
Based on my own experiences though, I’d suggest that people attend talks, and lectures – no matter how obscure the subject matter may be. You never know what you’ll learn.
So, reasons to attend lectures and workshops:-
1. The Speaker – Don’t always base your attendance on who it is – look at their work, and use that as a start point. Don’t forget that good photographers don’t always make good speakers (and vice versa).
2. To see the work of other attendees, if it is a workshop where you bring images yourself. It’s always good to see other peoples work – and this is why I enjoy travelling to different places and clubs so much – I get to look at what everyone else is doing.
3. Pick up new techniques – ideas about how to use software – discover new software. Talk about how cameras have developed….
4. See different styles and approaches that are different to yours.
We are creatures of habit, and sometimes we get so tied up in our own visions, that we fail to see what else is going on around us. It’s good to see someone elses work that makes us feel inadequate, because, who knows, it may open the door to something new and creative for you.
5. Getting past the cliche shots. How many images of the jetty at Derwent have you seen? How many Taj Mahals at sunrise? How many red buses in a black and white shot of London.
I’m not saying these shots are bad, or even poor – they are just done to death. Once you stop imitating it’s easier to find your own vision. The critical feedback that can come your way in a workshop or seminar, the resulting introspection, and the worry that follows, are all important.
6. Learning about the past. All photographers should at least be aware of who has preceeded them. Comments such as “I’ve never heard of Cartier Bresson”, or worse…. “Ansel who”? are a travesty.
7. Stopping imitating – Once you have copied other people’s work, (that you have been inspired by) you should start creating your own.
8. That photo workshop has been really useful to you, so now you can go off and create something new and fresh.
After all, and don’t forget this, everyone else at that workshop took the same images you did.
At least three months ago (probably longer), I did a talk for the RPS East Midlands Group on my completion of the Associateship Distinction. I did this in conjunction with a few other folks, who talked about Licentiate, and Fellowship. We did it in Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre, and it went very well.. I do hope the RPS can run more events locally like this one…
Fast forward a little, and two of us (members of the Facebook, She Clicks group) were asked to repeat the talk as a Webinar.
Must confess to having got a bit excited about this, as did my co-presenter Lynn, who said she had to be bullied a bit to join in (not sure I had to bully much though!) ….. anyway………
Time passes – we start to put a talk together, and decide jointly that for most of it we would hide behind a slide show – not realising THEN, that even with the slide show running, we would still be in frame – albeit a small on in the corner of the screen.
This was revealed to us, during the rehearsal that we had with organiser Angela Nicholson, where we also had to figure out the software that was needed.
The Webinar was scheduled for December 4th, and I was away on holiday the week before – not getting back into the UK till late on the 2nd. Spent the 3rd updating what we were going to say, and then met early on the 4th to rehearse again and run through the talk – trying to remember not to talk over each other, and more importantly not to wave our arms around whilst speaking (must confess to being a bit of an arm waver…..)
What was disconcerting I found, was that although we could see Angela – we knew that no-one else could, so we sat looking into a camera, and apparently talked to ourselves for just about an hour….. it was a really odd feeling – In the back of my mind, I knew there were people there watching – but I’m used to seeing my ‘audience’, and hearing their mumbles…….
To cut a long story short – it seemed to go well – the feedback was positive, and although there are a few things I’d have changed (like probably smile a bit more – I think I might have looked a bit glum sometimes), and try not to be so hesitant over words – ie, practice more…. There were lots of questions at the end, and more on the Facebook page afterwards – which was great.
We were even told that we looked professional……
Having done it once, I think I’d be happy to do it again, especially with the knowledge that I have now. We all have to do things for a first time, and it can be nerve wracking…. I remember the first time I had to stand up and talk to an audience. It was a good few years ago, but I had had the benefit of a public speaking course. What I remembered was one thing……….
“Always remember that the folks down there looking at you, are probably thinking that they are glad it’s you, and not them…. so just look confident – get on with it, and they’ll appreciate everything you say”
Plus, the benefit is they can’t answer you back on a Webinar – well not till you’ve finished anyway….
So yes, I’d do it again, and having chatted to Lynn afterwards, I think she would too……
Here’s my ARPS Fine Art Panel that got me through, first time, and with flying colours….