On my old blog in what feels like an eternity ago. I wrote a series of articles about how I ended up where I did. I have decided to republish them here in 3 parts as well, with small footnotes given the changes in the web landscape since, and in particular what is now called “social media”.
So; here we go.
How I got Here Part One?
or… Why I do what I do, the way I do it.
This is not much more than a historical backwater, where, after chatting to a photographer on flickr about film grain of all things, I felt the need to lay out my cards. So, please do not read around siesta time, or after the consumption of alcohol.
The classic way to begin these things is to ask yourself, 3 questions.
What, Why, How.
So here goes.
Interesting, engaging, beautiful images; with a camera or cameras, that express something more than what was in front of the lens when I pressed the shutter, or perhaps question the notion of what all the above is, amongst many other things. Memory and Identity figure in there pretty highly too.
Why? Well that’s a bit longer and harder to answer, here goes though.
Picture this, it’s 1984 or 5. I am a twenty something living and working for the weekend [as a cab driver]. After a year or so I realise this is probably not going to lead anywhere engaging. So I decide I’d best get back to school and give something a go. Also, I had recently bought a 35mm SLR camera; [duty free] and was pretty disappointed with the results. I wanted better, and some obscure part of my imagination had often looked around and ‘seen’ things and thought “that would make a good photograph”. Some research and digging around had me apply to the 2 main Colleges that taught Photography in town[Melbourne Australia]. I got interviewed, but lucked out, [knowing what I now know this is no surprise]. Both recommended a folio building course, one even recommended what was then Brighton Technical School. I enrolled. It took 2 years to get a handle on my craft and produce a decent folio. Then on to University I went. Another 3 years of working on my craft, with the accompanying exploration of history and theory. Modernism was considered passé, and with Post-Modernism at its height, it [postmodernism] wasn’t that interested in art as finely crafted objects, more ideas, or that’s how I interpreted it. Nonetheless I was interested in finely crafted objects, namely photographic prints. Prints that were interesting, engaging, beautiful, irrespective of their subject matter, but above and beyond all else photographic.
While I was at art school I’d learnt about many aspects of our rich photographic history and the ideas that surrounded its current state of play. One such idea was Pictorialism. In the mid to late 1800s photography was still struggling with its identity, organisations like the Linked Ring, were busy trying to promote photography beyond its humble uses and into the realm of art. In doing so, they used techniques that involved heavy manipulation of their negatives & prints to make them look more like paintings.
An American circle of photographers later renounced Pictorialism altogether and went on to found Group f/64, which espoused the ideal of un-manipulated, or straight photography.
Here’s a list of the Photographers Wikipedia consider members:-
- Ansel Adams
- Imogen Cunningham
- John Paul Edwards
- Consuelo Kanaga
- Alma Lavenson
- Preston Holder
- Sonya Noskowiak
- Henry Swift
- Willard Van Dyke
- Brett Weston
- Edward Weston
Those of you who know me in person pre-flickr will see a pattern.
Other Photographers I was exposed to at College, were, Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Richard Misrach, to name but a few. Robert Adams, was part of a group of photographers in the 70’s who had been labelled ‘The New Topographers’ from an exhibition of the same name. This was all very new and exciting for me, as I had through a series of experiences prior to returning to College gotten interested in ‘Landscape Photography’. All these photographers still adhered to the ideas about photography, that a photograph was just that, yet unlike Ansel Adams their subject matter was far from sublime.
What I wanted to be sublime was the print, the silver gelatin or ’Type C’ print that hung on a wall and people looked at and admired for it’s inherent beauty and for the ideas it expressed, in the context of a broader photographic history.