Creative: Note to Photographer/Self

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Just recorded a long film then deleted it. I felt like I might be coming across as someone who had all the answers. I don’t. In fact, my success vs. failure rate in life is maybe 50/50, and that is most likely being generous. And when it comes to photography, my success rate is even lower.

On the flipside, I’ve got experience in several areas, so from time to time I might have a bit of relevant information. My “photo-fitness” films have garnered some attention from photographers I respect, people who reached out and said, “These are fun, and they remind me to get my ass out and shoot.” The concept of practicing photography seems to be a hot point for some folks, as if photography isn’t a skill that requires practice.

After years of assisting professional photographers, I can say with certainty that the need to shoot oneself into shape is a very real requirement. I don’t know anyone who shows up and makes five-star imagery from the moment they land on the scene. Photography as a hobby can be anything. Photography as an obsession or profession requires a lot more.

Comments 10

  1. Good points indeed.
    Up until about 5 years ago, I was shooting sometimes 3 jobs a day (editorial). I was ‘in the groove’- everything felt natural, my confidence was high, even in the days of EPP transparency film, I was assessing the location, the talent, and all in a very short space of time. Everything had to be spot on; my only flex was a clip test of the film, and even then at most a push or pull of one stop. Since then, I get possibly one job every two or three weeks and boy, do I feel the anxiety, the pressure. I go over and over the permutations of the shoot in my head. what if? what if? It cannot be stressed enough that continual exercise with your equipment is essential for nailing the picture. Your equipment needs to feel as natural as gloves, it should be something you barely need to think about, and that’s why gear isn’t important, all your intent should be on what you’re photographing, what’s within the frame……and that only comes with constant use. It’s what’s in front of you and not behind you.

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  2. “Photography as an obsession requires a lot more” you say. Agreed! Isn’t the Nikon Zf a beauty? I blame my obsession for requiring one from Santa 😂 (Santa already agreed) and I’ll use it to practise my photo-fitness so it’s for a good cause.
    Everything you have to say about photography, for me, is very interesting and inspirational and I feel I have already learned a lot from you.

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  3. I’m sorry you wiped the film. I would rather have seen it, and arrived at my own conclusions about its worth. You can’t go through life worrying about other people’s reactions unless they are clients or possible clients. Everybody knows or thinks they know best about their own talents, and whether they do or do not depends, largely, on their track record. Unfortunately, the better it is, the more uptight I think folks become about what they publish, setting standards so high that they could ultimately lead to total disappearance from world view.

    (I suppose this was something I overcame when I started my website: I’d already retired, and the space became an easy-reference means for me to access my pix. In a pro world, I’d have edited the hell out of everything and probably included very little of my other photography.)

    Personally, the thing that would spook me about going into a shoot today is not creativity: it’s about how much I trust digital photography to deliver what I’d want. Long retired – hardly from choice, but mainly because digital made the ‘phone go pretty dead – budgets, in my world, simply dried up. Worse, few companies, Pirelli aside, seemed to see any future worth in wall art, when even the humble watch started to slip into redundancy.

    When I was shooting a lot of fashion stuff, it usually took a few shots to get going on each new gig: you have the model to warm up too, and if she’s the kind who contributes to the shoot, rather than just being a window dummy, it’s important she has the time to get into it as well. One benefit of the Bailey/Shrimpton muse arrangement is this: you both know one another so well that you hit the ground running: each new shoot is really a part of the one you just finished. In other words, there’s no space for going cold. However, such relationships are a luxury available to few.

    Andreea: yes, it strikes me as a very pretty thing. However, I wonder if reverting to dials hasn’t brought with it less resistance to water and dust problems. I would certainly enjoy having one, but to be brutally honest, I do nothing that my museum-worthy D200 doesn’t cover in all respects but one: letting my old lenses once again work in the format for which they were designed. I sometimes wonder why the D810 and its 36 mpx sensor vanished. It was good enough for folks such as Peter Lindbergh… i tend to think a lot of babies get thrown away with the digital bathwater.

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      I can’t imagine digital not delivering. In many ways it’s exponentially beyond anything film could deliver, but living the digital lifestyle is what can become a real problem. And ya, budgets went away a long time ago. I was watching an old Anthony Bourdain clip on Peru. Those days are gone too. Their foodTravel stuff now isn’t worth a bother.

  4. Dan, I probably didn’t phrase that well. Yes, digital cameras have made lots of things easier than they used to be, but my fear is more about the emotional part of photography: doing it with film, printing my own stuff, that was a hands-on buzz that I never really get with digital. With digital, I look at the monitor and it, the picture, eventually becomes something very different to what it might have been in the darkroom. The endless possibilities to tweak, to change, go back, try again, somehow feel cheap. The art, the slight of hand, almost, of wet printing, gives way to something kinda less human, more mechanical. I have very few images from digital cameras that ever made it to paper; loads of digital stuff online, but the few digital prints I have pretty much all derive from old, film work. Somehow, they feel more worth the cost in both time and materials.

    Even then I look at those digital prints and I can’t love them as I did some of my bromide prints.

    Perhaps I’m not really convinced that digital photography ever did become photography.

    1. Rob.

      I have just seen part of a project by Everett Brown called Umui taken with a large format camera in Okinawa. It made me think about digital v film and how digital lacks soul.

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