the subject itself
Yes, I’ve been quiet for a while. I’ve been doing that thing, where you assess your progress and plan your direction, examine your motivations, identify a goal or two. Sometimes you need to forget about that stuff and just shoot, because you can get so tied up in it that you lose your creativity and energy. But this time I think I’m actually getting closer to a definable outcome. This is going to be a pretty self centred post, but maybe it will strike a chord and inspire someone else all the same…
My main reading over the last few days has been the essays of Bill Jay, and possibly in particular this one. It’s a sentiment that I’ve heard expressed by so many people, and it never really sunk in until now. I suppose sometimes you might just not be ready to learn something until you’ve experienced something else. I think that’s also why I didn’t buy Art & Fear when Neil suggested it about 6 months ago – I still had a lot of experience to gain before I was ready to take it on board. Now I’ve been shooting digital for a year (I tend to almost discount my previous years of slide stuff, since my output was rather less than prolific to say the least – far too precious about film), I have amassed a good amount of hours behind the camera and indeed a good few more, pontificating about the process!
So now I’ve really been taking this¬†all in on another level, I think I have most of the ‘snapshot’ stuff out of the way, and I’m ready to move on. But knowing just what ‘moving on’ means is a whole journey of discovery in itself, and I think I’m almost there. I’ve come to terms with the fact that in the end, it’s more important to me to create images that are visually appealing, than have an obvious message, or meaning, in them. What I’m struggling with, though,¬†is the prospect of limiting myself to a single subject, as suggested by Bill Jay in that article -¬†also debated recently by Colin Jago as a question of ‘wide or deep’.¬† Do you get to know one particular subject intimately, to the exclusion of others, so that you can produce better (more interesting…?) pictures of it than if you didn’t understand it outside of the actual photography side of things? Or do you sweep wide, skimming the surface of a greater range of subjects?
Given that I think we all have natural tendencies towards particular subjects, and also that the effort of travelling for the sake of finding new subjects as per the ‘wide’ approach might be inhibitive to my photography, I’m going to have to consider going a little more in depth with something I’m already familiar with to a certain extent.
Identifying what you want to home in on can be difficult, when it’s not immediately obvious. I want to choose a project that is naturally interesting to me, has plenty of visual appeal, and also has a certain depth to explore. I’m trying to visualise a collection on the walls of a room, and trying out different kinds of pictures to see which ones seem more interesting. There’s no doubt that I have an inclination to shoot nature/flower macros – if not macros then very intimate landscapes, but it’s a subject that has been done to death. Despite agreeing with George Barr’s recent thoughts on shooting what’s already been done, I’d still like to give myself a little bit more room for coming up with something you don’t see on the cover of Amateur Photographer every month.
I have a tiny seed of an idea that has started to grow, (no pun intended, honest) about the tiny little landscapes that are all around us in the city – even though we live in a jungle of bricks and concrete, the shoots and leaves and flowers spring up everywhere in little nooks and crannies, and although it’s probably fairly cheesy, it’s what I notice. Judging from my experience of walking round with other people, I seem to have a particular sort of attraction for things like that, and since I’d like my photography to prompt people to see things they usually wouldn’t notice, it’s what I’m thinking of shooting. What I do have to refine is just how to approach it.
But it’s certainly nice to have a project in mind, especially one so easily accessible.