There are photographs everywhere – we are being swamped by them; but are they good?
I grew up in a photographer’s family; my grandfather built a business from it and was recently featured in a BBC Documentary for his WW1 photographs he took as a teenager. The business is still going strong, now in the third generation – but what have I made of photography?
As a teenager, I managed to buy my dream camera, a Pentax SLR and I took photos wherever I went. I took my time working out the best angle, the best frame and generally did not take more than one or two photos per subject – film and developing was expensive, I tried to get it right first time. It was a relaxing pastime and preserved not just memories but also taught me to really ‘look’ at things, and to consider what makes them special.
Then the ‘little people’ came along and the SLR was too slow and cumbersome for snapshots, so I bought a ‘point and shoot’ camera. And my photography was just a quick click in between cleaning up spills and preventing disasters. Definitely not relaxing anymore! And the number and quality of my photos lessened considerably.
And then the digital cameras arrived! What a blast! You could click away and take 100s of shots without it costing you anything, you could check straight away how the picture turned out and reshoot if it was no good. You could do your own ‘developing’ and enlarging, printing, editing (it was called retouching in the good ole days) – it was heaven! But was it? The easier it became to take and fix photographs, the worse they got. There was no incentive to get it right, they can always be fixed up later on the computer (but they never were). And so we end up with hard drives full of very mediocre images, all waiting for that day when we sort through them all, discard the failures, and fix up the better ones. And photography becomes a thing you do at home at the computer desk.
STOP! Let’s get back to the ART of photography! Yes, there is a place for the quick snapshot to create a memento of that special moment (but not necessarily the food you ate) but, there is so much more to photography. You can express feelings, thoughts and things that are hard to put into words, you can create an atmosphere with your pictures, and it can be a very relaxing hobby. There are plenty of so-called challenges out there and they are a start. Or have a look at the ‘a photo a week’ or similar lists, that give you a subject for every week or day and get you back to thinking about the images you take. I’m not advocating to become a professional or prize winning photographer, but start looking at the world again through that little rectangle and just see what you can find. Take your camera, go out and really have a look at the world and try and see the things that make up the whole. Instead of taking a picture of the city skyline that can be found in hundreds of variations on the ‘net, have a look at the items that make up that skyline, concentrate on a small part and see what you can make of it.
And remember, it is not the camera that makes the photographer, there have been fantastic photographs that were taken with a Box Brownie.