Monday, 7 October 2013

Selling up

When you do something for the sake of doing it and the satisfaction you get from doing it there comes a time when you question the sanity of it. This is especially so if that something is normally accepted as being done for the appreciation of others. Making photographs falls into that camp while fishing doesn't. I abandoned painting in favour of fishing when I left college because I knew I was never going to make a career as an artist, so I might just as well spend my free time doing something for no other reason than the satisfaction it gave me. There is no end product with fishing. The time spent doing it is the reward. Time spent making pictures is a reward, but there are the things produced at the end of it. Things which by their very nature are intended to be looked at. But by whom?

This is where I have always struggled to find an answer. My ego would  like to have my pictures seen and appreciated, but I haven't a clue who by! I have never known where my photographs fit. I have no interest whatsoever in making pictures which will garner the approval of camera clubs or even the RPS. They are all too formulaic and technique driven, and I'm a sloppy, lazy practitioner. The populist photography magazines are taste driven. It would be fairly easy to conform to their accepted standards, but the pictures would be boring. The serious art world is too pretentious for my liking (it's the bullshit that matters rather than the pictures) and driven as much by taste and fashion as any other outlet. Posting to Flikr groups or forums is a waste of time as they are all about easily given praise or disapproval which is meaningless. They also encourage conformity.  So it came to pass that making photographs for the sake of making photographs became an absurd practice for me. I thought about selling my camera gear and went fishing.


Even when I abandoned taking a camera with me everywhere I was still seeing pictures. This got to me to the extent that I went back with a camera and made them. The picture below couldn't have been seen or made a few weeks ago because the flowers weren't in bloom. It fits into the ongoing Over The Hedge series, which might well continue in its ad hoc way. One reason I could never make it in the art world is that while I can be serious about making pictures, I can't find it in myself to take it seriously. As soon as I find that happening I take a step back to consider the absurdity of it all. I know that fishing for fun is absurd, so the absurdity doesn't worry me. Yet we are conditioned to believe that art (which is absurd) must be taken seriously. When I start taking art seriously I go fishing!

It was while out fishing that I came across an agricultural sprinkler. The juxtaposition of the machinery in the flat farmland struck me as visually interesting. It also relates to pictures I have made previously of drainage and irrigation. of all the pictures I made I like the one below for its simplicity. The colour palette is limited. There's a contrast between the mechanical and natural forms, yet the industrial nature of the agriculture is hinted at by the converging rows of plants.

From a technical point of view I like the way I used the much maligned (in camera geek circles) built in flash of the camera to add some fill and form to the sprinkler head. I doubt a separate flash gun would have done a better job. The rest of the best shots are in the gallery below. All were taken using the 28mm lens and are in what I think of as a photo-journalistic mode. They are not intended to be art pictures, they are documentary in nature but with an attempt at giving them visual impact having been made.

Better seen larger here.

I don't find having the one focal length to use as limiting as some might think. It's all well and good having zooms to cover every eventuality, but there does seem to be a (visual) reason that 28mm became the focal length of choice for many of an earlier generation of photographer. For all that 50mm is supposed to represent the way we see the world the wider view feels more natural to me.

It's been said many times that having a fixed focal length makes you think more about composition and that zooms make you lazy. It's said because it's true. As you move around to frame pictures you see alternatives that you wouldn't have noticed by turning a zoom ring. I could quite happily be limited to just the 28mm view of the world. Or the 35mm view, or the  50mm.... It's' as if I have gone back to where I was in 1982. A 28, a 50 and an 85 (in place of the 100 I used to use). Why not use my midrange zoom and have done? Because it weighs a ton and it mostly gets used at one end or the other of its range. As do most zooms.

Working out a lens selection is all about finding out what suits your ways of seeing and working. Unfortunately that means buying stuff you end up not using. Time to write out a list of stuff I don't need. Starting with that mid-range zoom.

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