Friday, 22 March 2013

Odds and ends

Much as I like the size and form factor of the X10, and much as it makes excellent prints, I still can't come to terms with it as a 'street' camera. Even composing using the screen is hit and miss. I seem to need the isolation of subject a viewfinder provides. The picture below had to be cropped to get the framing I'd wanted.

On the other hand the next, hastily grabbed, shot has worked well in it's formal construction of lines leading the eye into the frame. That's all the picture is about really - an arrangement of shapes and colour. Increasingly that is something I'm finding less satisfying for its own sake. As dissatisfying as the masses of photographs I look at which are full of content (and/or comment) that lack any formal composition to them.

It is possible to put the two crucial elements of content and form together, and in a 'straight' uncomplicated way to produce compelling photographs which stand repeated viewing. I stumbled on some such photographs the the week while surfing the web and tracked down the book they were from. Rhodri Jones's black and white photographs of his native land are pretty straight documentary pictures, even the ones made with a panoramic camera. The way they are presented in diptychs and triptychs is perfectly logical and unmannered to my eye.

Following links can lead to unexpected gems like that. Another random trail lead me to On Landscape. Mostly the site didn't appeal, and the threat of having to pay to view the content was even more scary, but there was mention of an interview with Jem Southam in the site's/magazine's (I'm not sure which it is) was intriguing. What little I have seen of Southam's landscape work on the web I like (and have probably been influenced by to a degree), even though it fits exactly (and might have initiated) a style of art-landscape photography which seems all pervasive these days. Large format work made on overcast days of seemingly boring places. Southam's stuff does have more lyricism and romanticism to it than most, though. Anyway, I signed up for the site and was delighted to be able to download the PDF containing the interview for free.

An interesting read it was too. It made it clear to me that people choose their working processes to suit their personalities. It also made me think about something written on The Online Photographer about taking just a handful of pictures a year versus taking thousands. The theory being that each methodology results in a similar number of 'good' pictures per year. I'm sure this is true. I'm not so sure that the reason is as suggested - that deliberately taking few photographs ensures that you take more care over each one. I reckon the reason is (photography being a medium entirely based on selection - of subject, framing etc.) you pick out the same number no matter how many you have to choose from. It is possible, after all, to make bad photographs when you take great care over them.

Southam cites cases of setting up his laborious equipment and waiting for ages only to not take a photograph. More fool him. There are times when photographs don't reveal their worth until time has passed. One of the benefits of digital is that you can take these photographs without great cost. Given the price of sheet film I can understand a reluctance to waste a sheet. What I can't understand (because it isn't in my nature) is knowing what you want before you get it.

I have thought up a number of photographic projects which I'll never take anywhere because I can visualise the results in my mind's eye. For me they already exist. Turning these projects into hard copy would be a chore. This is probably why the river project withered on the vine. If I had thought up the Gone Out series in advance it would never have been made. As the idea occurred to me on the spur of the moment, when I had a camera with me, it got done.

My other ongoing projects have come about because they sort of grew out of what and where I was photographing. I have feelings of what they are about, but no fixed ideas. The quarry photographs have coalesced into a format quite quickly. Nonetheless putting the best images together on the computer this week has revealed a few holes which need filling. If the sun ever shines again I'll go and fill them. I know the sort of pictures I need, but not the precise images. This is what photography is all about for me. It's an excuse to go looking around the world, even if it's just my parochial part of it.

Seeing, looking and recording. That's the essence of my photography. It's as much as to make me ask myself why I took my photographs as to show other people what I have seen. I guess this is why I take more than a handful of photographs each year. I like looking and seeing.

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