Life and time commitments make it difficult to plan shooting. Working around good light and the best seasons complicates this. To then process film on top of that, means a lot. Not to mention that materials, such as black and white papers, are running out as well. This puts me in a quandary. It means, my creative energies would be better spent exploring ideas and the world around me. using other means, preferably with a lens and a light sensitive material of some sort.
Technological changes mean I can create good quality images quickly . Excellent ones If I’m careful in an analogue sense] and easily using the smallest of devices. The caveat being they will probably only ever exist in cyber space. Why then not explore other ideas now. I mean all that other stuff, I’d felt was important for all this time, is it important? In this image saturated media landscape? Why not just see if I can’t get the ideas across using the simplest of tools? With nothing more to deal with than the 3 most important elements of photography. Light, Time, Space.
Well hey presto! Here I am using a mobile phone and or a small camera. Hopefully getting some idea across about the world I see. one that I am somewhat incongruously part of. One that I can share in real time or in a myriad of other ways.
There is somewhat of a leap of faith here. Between finely crafted silver gelatin prints, and the bulk of work I’m producing these days. So let me retrace my steps. Somewhere between 1994 and 2004, I started meandering in other directions. A Grad. Dip. Ed and an MA, were two of them. Computers the internet and Desktop Publishing were other side interests. All the while, digital cameras are following Moore’s Law. Desktop printers are getting better and better. By 2004 I’m hooked into flickr using my Nikon Coolpix 5400, bought after travelling the world. This is the first digital camera I owned, capable of producing reasonable A4 prints. It is not the 1st I ever owned. The first I owned, had died a quiet death in Wales on the same trip. In the interim had produced 13,000 plus images, a tiny selection of which made one of my 1st e-books, “buy, buy, buy”.
The current iPhone I use now create both RAW and HEIF files. I have printed these files to A2, so my digital toolset is getting physically smaller. All in all a good thing. Now I spend a large amount of time choosing images to upload to flickr. Book creation forms a major part of my creative energy now too. As film prices have skyrocketed that aspect of my production slows. I now too have a scanner at home. I plan on revisiting my 30 year old colour film archive. This project alone should produce I hope at least 2 or 3 bodies of work. Also, several social media sites have risen attempting to usurp Instagram.
But I digress. As I said 2004 and getting a flickr account, was somewhat of a turning point for me. The first few years on flickr were pretty insane. Eventually I picked up on some patterns and ideas that were not dissimilar to the real world. Particularly amongst amateur photographers. For example.
- 35 mm DSLRs produce better images than point and shoot cameras, allegedly.
- Shallow Depth of Filed has some special magic quality about it. Which in turn, spawned a slather of cults/followers/groups 11,000 on flickr at time of writing.
- Skin/sex sells, but I guess I knew that already but had forgotten it
- Subtlety/complexity was often overlooked
- Democracy exists in a way I’d never experienced it before [is this a unique web/forum thing?]
- I don’t need to upload daily, and can even ‘curate’ my images in advance before uploading.
Anyway, I enjoyed those first few years prior to the Yahoo buyout immensely. I still do enjoy my time on flickr, but in a much more pared back kind of way. Two of the factors I enjoy about flickr, are. The amount of folks who seemed prepared to push the envelope on photography. The interface design, particularly compared to ‘deviantart’ and ‘fotolog’. In the beginning though it, flickr or my experience of it, was still somehow tied into the idea of a polished and finished ‘object’. You know the stuff I’d learnt at University.=
Somewhere around 2006/2007, things slowly moved in another direction. I knew it was pointless obsessing over colour and colour management. This is still a very poorly misunderstood idea. Not to mention, interfaces and browsers interfere with these factors anyway. I began wondering then, how I could add a layer of complexity to my images that was uniquely digital. How I could use flickr and the internet to exploit that? So I then began looking at other ideas.
Maps have always fascinated me. They, give some clue to your geographical location. Which in turn hints at who you are, and in turn may give some clues to your culture. One thing that is unique to digital photography is, Exif Data. Digital exif data maps to the second when you made the image. The Web itself has grown to allow people ways to geographically and visually place images into maps. These images then add data to larger databases. Databases that collectively and individually add to the greater understanding of who we are, and where we are.
Time, place, identity/memory are driving factors behind much of my output. Yet. I’m also still not only interested in what makes a photograph “good”? But now, how I can use the simplest of tools to create images this way? The biggest change for me though is, that I carry at least one and often 2 or 3 small digital devices everywhere. And can work at an intuitive level that I’ve never been able or allowed myself to work at before. [Once I’ve learnt how to exploit or overcome the shortcomings of each device]. Intuition is for me the most difficult of creative processes to justify. In this day and age, of huge staged, over-manipulated, images. That adorn the halls of many Arts institutions.
For me, seeing comes before speaking. Therefore why an image I made exists is often more a visceral thing than an intellectual exercise. Although, the intellectual stimulus that a good photograph provides IS important too.
Let me finish off by, presenting one of my favourite little poems I picked up while studying at art school. It for me sums up art and photography so well.
“In modern thought, [if not in fact]
nothing is that doesn’t act
So that is reckoned wisdom which
describes the scratch
but not the itch”