I may have written about this at this time last year. It seems a natural thing to do at year end, for us to look back on what we‚ve done, and think about what‚s to come in the next 12 months.
Reading a thread on a forum about what 2008 has been to some people, it started to feel more like some sort of bragging exercise. People seem to rate getting published, getting paid, and buying the best gear as the highest achievements to be had. This does suggest that external validation is the most important thing to them, and I think it‚s a bit disappointing. I love it as much as anyone when someone (especially those I respect and admire, of which I am lucky to know quite a few) praises my work, and I do put it out there to be seen. But looking back over my year and thinking about it, there are other things which stand out as achievements for me:
The SoFoBoMo project
Not so much the final product, but the fact that I stuck to it and completed the project. It also coincided with the arrival of my holga lens, and a new way of seeing and of shooting for me ‚Äì the softness of the lens seemed to work well with the hard lines of (ugly) 70s architecture and also the red and brown brick buildings of Dublin, and using such a small, discreet lens on a fairly compact DSLR body allowed me to bring photography into my daily routine rather than having it boxed off into actual photography based outings at weekends. I‚Äôm not sure I would have realised that so much had I not been forced to shoot intensively for the project.
Pointing my camera at people
I, like a huge amount of others I‚ve spoken to, have always had problems pointing my camera at people. But this year I shot a few weddings as well as a couple of portrait sessions for friends, and it – to use that well worn phrase – has forced me out of my comfort zone. I don‚t know why but when you do go beyond what you’re comfortable with and you actually do a half decent job, it’s hugely rewarding and gives you the inclination to try some more.
Using photography as an outlet
I never used to quite get it when people talked about using their art as an outlet for their emotions. I preferred botanical macros and couldn’t stretch further than a few tenuous links to something that sounded profound about the withered petals or the bare branches. Something happened around about the same time as I started shooting with the holga lens, and it became like a new language for me to communicate with – although in the strictest definition communication is the transfer of something from one person to another, I would be inclined to say that it still counts even if it was only me who could really understand it. I don’t even know what happened but it was like a switch was flipped and all of a sudden it just made sense. It really did give me an outlet when I had nobody to talk to, which was even more therapeutic than the peace I previously enjoyed when I went out with the camera.
Changing the definition of ‘good enough’
I posted about this recently. I used to wrestle internally about how I just took pretty pictures that were only good for decorating a wall or the front of a birthday card. It just didn’t seem good enough, intense enough, artistic enough, creative enough. I stopped measuring ‘good enough’ in that way and started to understand that if I got satisfaction from a making a pretty picture of a pretty flower, it was good enough.
These things, together, all add up to my maturing as a photographer and gaining a new level of understanding of why I shoot, and letting go of that quest for validity based on other people’s opinions, or indeed my own ideas of what other people expect of me. I can’t see what direction this path takes from here, but I’m looking forward to finding out.