Sometimes it's gear, sometimes it's books - my big weakness. That's how two books arrived a while back. I fancied reading interviews with photographers as they tend not to talk about techniques but more about strategies and approaches.
The first book I read (it didn't take long) was Photographers on Photography. Sadly it disappointed in that all you got from the photographers was one picture and a short quote. The rest of the text was the thoughts of the author on how the photographers worked and what their concerns were.
There are four interviews in the book, but they were not with photographers who interested me particularly, and one came across as very shallow and self-centred - which I thought was reflected in here work (especially when I checked it out on-line). Not a bad book for the price, though.
The second book, Dialogue with Photography, promised more. The interviews were longer, with well regarded photographers of influence in their day, conducted by equally well respected photographers. Again I was disappointed. The interviews were more of a biographical nature. For someone studying the history of photography in the 20th century it could be a valuable reference book. Not least because more than one side of some stories were told.
It took me a long time to get into the book, and at times I was reading it just to get to the end. However, the most interesting part for me came right at the end, in the Ansel Adams interview. All the interviews took place in the mid 1970s and there was 'Saint Ansel' saying that for him, one of the greatest practitioners of darkroom work, "the future of the image is going to be in electronic photography." He went on to say that we would be looking at these beautiful electronic images on screens. Quite a prediction for 1975!
It wasn't idle window shopping that caused my next book purchase. It was photo-browsing. Where I got the link to Chris Clunn's photographs is lost in my deleted browser history, but I got there somehow and discovered his project for the Farmers' Union of Wales shot between 2007 and 2011.
It's a simple paperback book consisting of a text by the photographer and square format black and white environmental portraits with accompanying quotes from the subjects. A sort of Welsh companion to Fay Godwin's Cumbrian Perfect Republic of Shepherds. I'm beginning to see my photobook collection take on a rural focus!
Something else to do when stuck inside on dark evenings, which stops the web surfing, is delving into my archives. I've been putting off the scanning of my old negatives for months. It was a look back trough my early digital fishing photos with a view to putting them in a Blurb book which nudged me to plug the scanner in again.
The old digital files and the negatives have something in common. The technical quality is 'different' to current digital files. I'll not say worse because you can't really compare old with new, and I'm not sure you can really compare old bridge camera technology with that of old DSLRs. I will say that my 3 and 6 mega pixel bridge camera offerings are not as detailed and noise free as what comes out of my 12 mega pixel upmarket compact. But then again there was no raw file option in my bridge cameras.
That said, magazine print always was more forgiving than computer screens, and small prints more forgiving than large prints. I did have a 3mp picture on the cover of one magazine and a double page spread in another. The latter still being one of my favourite fishing photos.
It has been enlightening to see how, in my early pictures, I was forming a way of making pictures within the viewfinder's frame. The very early pictures are clearly snapshots, but trying to be something more. Gradually the random snaps decrease in frequency. And while I wasn't aware of it the documentary urge was also clearly forming. It is most obviously present in my series of pictures (most pretty poor) of the farm building (now a plush residence) along the lane. I wish I had made a better job of it..
In some my liking for making pictures which are essentially blocks of tone or colour distributed through the frame is in evidence.
There are some surprises in the negative files. Not only negatives I never printed at the time, but pictures I have no recollection of ever seeing before!
While scanning negatives is a slow and tedious business the resulting files are capable of more and better manipulation on the computer than I was ever able to achieve in my primitive bathroom darkroom.
Appraising my old pictures I can see that I'm still photographing similar subjects in similar ways. Often things which most people don't bother photographing - I've found two photos of litter already! The difference is, I think, that while I quickly moved away from my attempts at 'camera club' photography (e.g. frost covered leaves) I have a much better idea of what I'm trying to achieve and my vision has consequently been refined. I just wish I hadn't had such a long break from making 'proper' photographs.