Taking photographs over the last two years has been, for me, a journey of discovery on several different levels.
On a technical level, it has meant reacquainting myself with the camera and its capabilities; and learning the difference between using film and using digital technology. After 30 years of taking photographs that were little more than mementos (of travel, of my son growing up, of tennis players in action), the scope of my image making had narrowed to that which was necessary to render the image recognisable. In many ways, I had become habituated to ask very little of the camera; and yet paradoxically, I had grown to rely on it to do much of the work.
On an artistic level, I realised that I had to learn how to make the camera not only record what I wanted to capture; but also express how I felt about that particular subject. A little while ago, a former colleague asked me what I was doing to pass the time since I retired from work. When I told him that, among other things, I was taking photographs as a hobby, he looked sceptically at me and asked: “With modern cameras, don’t photographs just…take themselves?” Considering what I had been doing with my cameras over the previous 30 years, I had to concede that he had a point; but since I have returned to serious photography I have been trying to do more than that; something that only another photographer could be expected to understand.
It is on the third level, however, that the most challenging journey has taken place; the search for the photographer within me. Why do I want to take photographs? What do I hope to achieve? Where am I going and how do I get there? I started out not even considering these questions. I just wanted to take good photographs; photographs that would enable me to communicate with others; and that they would enjoy. But as I rode the roller coaster of Flickr, encouraged by the opportunity to ‘meet’ kindred spirits from around the world, seduced by the positive feedback that started to come my way and at the same time becoming increasingly disheartened by a gradual realisation that much of the progress I had thought I was making was mere mirage, I began to question everything: Flickr, myself, my ability and my motivation. I realised that, for me, there has to be a point to everything; and I seriously began to doubt the point of doing what I was doing.
In desperation, I tried to photograph different things; and in different ways. I tried writing about photography and about Flickr, searching for clues that might help me find the path forward. Even my writing that made no mention of photography was an expression of this struggle in another guise. Then gradually, as my sense of futility grew and I inevitably confronted the idea of giving up, the pieces started to come together and form a picture. Most of them had already appeared individually: in the photographs I’d been taking and in my writing about photography. But they had been fragmented and desultory. In isolation, they represented only unanswered questions and a deepening confusion. But together, once I saw it, they suddenly made sense; and I realised that so much of what I had thought important, I didn’t really need.
The exact nature of this revelation is a story in its own right and very probably one of no interest to anyone but myself; but right at the moment, I feel that the journey I have been on thus far on was a necessary preparation for whatever lies ahead. And now I can look forward to the next stage of that journey optimistically, travellin’ light, or at least with far less baggage than before.
Here is the story, in pictures, of the journey so far.