I haven’t really taken many photographs over the last six months and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve taken plenty of snapshots of random things but I’m talking about getting my SLR out, maybe with the tripod, and taking photographs. If you’ve had a look through my Flickr stream (particularly the My Favourites set) you’ll see that I have some pretty strong photos in there and when I put my mind to it can capture something pretty good. Here’s one of my favourites – arguably one of the best natural photographs I’ve taken:
I spent quite a while going on shoots with my friend Ade on a near weekly basis but eventually I just had to stop and take a break from it. He loves taking photos – and is far better at it than me – but I just can’t keep up his relentless enthusiasm for trawling around Yorkshire taking so many pictures.
I recently watched a series on BBC4 called ‘The Genius Of Photography‘ and that’s where I really understood the power of photography to change the world and shape people’s view of it. The series charted the history of photography and how it was at first a novelty, then used for propaganda, war reporting, art and a host of other purposes – but underpinning everything was how photography has charted the history of humans over the last 170 years – from our greatest achievements to our greatest atrocities. Some of the most important pictures ever taken were shown and discussed and only by closely looking at some of them did the true genius of the photographers who took them come through.
If I ever get any ideas that I’m a good photographer I just need to look at some of the photographs featured in the series and realise that I have a very great deal to learn indeed. Knowing how to compose and expose a photograph properly is only the beginning – it’s what you take the photograph of, when and how you choose to do it that’s the key.
I guess that’s the thing I’ve been struggling with. I’ve found over the years that if I’m ever to stick at anything I need to have an underlying reason and sense of direction. I need a purpose. One of my character strengths and weaknesses is that I can be remarkably single-minded about things, but if I don’t have a goal in mind then I tend to drift aimlessly. And I think that’s been my problem with photography – I really enjoy it, but I’ve only been going out to take photographs. I haven’t been going out to take photographs of ‘something in particular’.
So my challenge is to think of a photography assignment to set myself and then go about fulfilling it. I’ll do my best to document the process and keep you updated on how I get on.