(fair warning: this may be a long post but as everything I say is important so you should keep reading)
This morning I was, as usual, doing some of my best thinking, while taking a shower. My shower is where, for whatever reason, I relax and my mind tends to wander and I seem to think more clearly. This mornings topic wound up being about photography.
My photography and what I am thinking about it, where I want it to go and what I want it to mean to me. In brief, or as brief as I can be, this is the conclusion to which I came: I am going to take pictures of whatever I want and do with them whatever I want.
I have experienced a variety of feelings over the past few months about what I have been doing and where I want to go, and I seem to have lost sight of my original reasoning for purchasing a dSLR (my lovely, lovely Canon 40D): because my point-n-shoot digital cameras didn’t satisfy my desire for quality images AND because they took way too long to actually ‘snap’ a picture. Too many high contrast photos had that purple fringing issue and you wouldn’t believe how many photos I took that didn’t come out because the subject matter (almost always one of the cats or dogs) moved during the actual capture process. Those digi point-n-shoots are just way too slow at snapping an image, especially without use of the flash. I really never thought much about post-processing of images (other than maybe crop & zoom) and while I knew I wanted to explore photography as an art form I wasn’t buying the camera for that purpose. I derive an awful lot of pleasure from simply taking pictures. Pictures of anything and/or anyone. As a matter-of-fact I think it is the actual process of picture taking that I enjoy more than anything else. Recording images of the more furry members of my family makes me very happy. Getting in the car and traveling to one of my more favourite parks to walk about and snap images brings me great pleasure. Trying to capture a decent picture of a winter cardinal, while elusive, is a great way to spend a morning. Just handling the equipment, the weight in my hands, the strap around my neck, the physical sensation of raising the camera to my eye….all work to create a sense of well-being within me.
Now, I think this train of thought was brought on, in no small part, by a blog posting I read yesterday. You can find it here. The posting discusses some particular techniques to use in Photoshop to create an effect that the writer believes turns an ordinary photo into something extraordinary. And it is a great effect. But here is what I thought was most interesting about his entry: when he shot the original image he already had in his mind what he wanted to do to it. I had a hard time wrapping my head around this idea. He scoped out a location, determined what he would do to an image in post-processing (to obtain his final result) and then shot images to take back home with which to work.
I don’t think like that. I still have a hard time wrapping my wee little brain around this sort of work. Maybe it’s because I see post-processing software as a place to ‘fix’ things or to accentuate something or de-accentuate something. I don’t know. And while I KNOW that image editing software can let me do so many things, I, to be frank, never really think of it in that manner for myself. I take an image to capture a moment. To make a record of a moment in time. For me, it’s more a matter of accurately recording the moment than altering it to convey something more……(maybe this explains why I never liked the work of Impressionist painters until much more recently in my life)
So, I exited the shower feeling….well….feeling better about myself and my photo-taking experiences thus far. I had been comparing them to others (which is patently dumb) and to expectations I had created in my head based upon ideas that had crept into my brain, but which I hadn’t thoroughly vetted in any meaningful way. And suddenly I felt the urge to upload photos to Flickr and join the image-hosting world regardless of the fact that my photos are completely average by any measure. And that is just fine by me.
Now let us jump to this afternoon where I’m using the tag surfer option here in WordPress.com and I wind up over on Blogger (somehow – it just happens you know) and I came across this posting from Tim Connor, who is discussing an article he read by a New York Times Magazine writer named Virginia Heffernan, whose article can be found here. And between them both are interesting discussions of Flickr and what is a “Flickr” photograph. It seems they both generally agree, but with some divergence, that there is a certain type of image for which Flickr is famous: heavily processed with image editing software. Which, of course, brings us full circle; back to my shower and thinking about what I want from my photographic endeavors, and thinking about the posting about how to create a particular look with Photoshop, etc. Clearly my aesthetic is not their aesthetic and for probably the first time since I began this process in December 2007 I’m okay with the idea that I’m not doing things like other folks. I don’t have to be anything. My pictures don’t have to be anything more than pictures. My subject matter can be what makes me happy and all other considerations be damned.
Besides…..I guess this means I’m pretty avant-garde because my images certainly do not fit within the so-called Flickr aesthetic. Damn if I’m not super-fucking cool.